THE 60-YEAR-OLD DUNCE!
First episode taken from Adventure issue: 1254 January 8th 1949.
Sammy’s Grandad may be a professor –
but he’s still kept in for not doing his sums right.
SAMMY’S INTELLIGENCE TEST
For once in his life young Sammy
Potter was off his food. He sat at a crowded table in the long dining hall of
Trying to live up to his Grandad
was one of Sammy’s troubles. Sammy’s Grandad was Professor Tobias Potter, a
learned and distinguished gentleman. Professor Potter had been lecturing on
atomic energy in
The school was thronged with visitors when they entered the wide gateway. The visitors were making their way slowly in the direction of the Big Hall, where the Head would make his speech. Professor Potter wandered off on his own, however. The school had not changed much since his day and he knew his way about. It was about half an hour later that Sammy knocked respectfully on the door of the Head’s study. It was not Dr Jameson who sprawled behind the big desk, but Corkoran, the senior prefect. “Get cracking, young ‘un,” said Corkoran, tossing Sammy a question paper and picking up a stop-watch. “And don’t forget to come out sharp when I ring the bell.” Clutching the paper, Sammy went through a doorway into a small cubicle. It was bare except for a chair and a table, on which was a sheet of paper with pen and ink beside it. Sammy carefully closed the door. Then, from under the table a plump, red face cautiously emerged and beamed at him. It was Professor Tobias Potter. “I’ve grown stiff with waiting, Sammy,” he grunted. “I had to come here half an hour before time so that I could slip in before the prefect turned up.” He chuckled. “Now, let’s have a look at this question paper.” Grandad studied the question paper. The first question said: ‘As night is to day, so locomotion is to—’ “Of the following words, write down which you consider most appropriate—travel, speed, movement, retraction, immobility, navigation.”
“Good gracious!” muttered the Professor. He studied the second question. There was a picture of a man in a bedroom, either dressing or undressing, and blank spaces had been left for the window and the bed. Beneath it were smaller pictures, one of a window with a night sky and one of a window with the sun shining. There was a picture of a bed which had not been slept in and one of a bed which had been slept in. Two of the smaller pictures had to be chosen to fill the blank spaces in the big picture. “What you’ve got to decide,” muttered Sammy, “is whether the bloke is just going to bed or just getting up. There’s a candle on the shelf, so I reckon he must be just going to bed—” “Dash it, I don’t see why,” argued the Professor. “He might have forgotten to blow the candle out. In any case, we’re not confounded detectives!” “Well, we’ve got to write down something!” gasped Sammy. “The questions become harder as you go on, and the time is passing.” “Don’t get excited, my boy,” said Professor Potter soothingly. “The main thing is keep calm. There is nothing difficult about this. One has only to use a little intelligence.” They busied themselves, and were on the last question when the bell rang. Sammy snatched up the paper and dashed out in haste. He did not want Corkoran to enter the room. “I’ll give it to the Head,” said Corkoran, taking the paper. “You can run along now. He’ll send for you later. Sammy trotted off. Shortly afterwards Corkoran also left. After waiting until everything had been silent for some time, Professor Potter emerged from his hiding place and cautiously departed from the Head’s study. The prize-giving was over and the speeches were coming to an end when Professor Potter met Dr Jameson in the main corridor. “Ah, Jameson, I’ve been wanting a word with you,” remarked the Professor breezily. “It’s about my grandson. How is he progressing?” “I have a report about him here,” said the Headmaster, taking a paper from his pocket. “He has just had an intelligence test.” “Yes?” The Professor could hardly keep his face straight. He could just imagine Dr Jameson’s amazement after marking Sammy’s paper. The Head was probably imagining he had discovered a genius. “I’m afraid I have bad news for you,” said Dr Jameson. “Your grandson completely failed the test. Although he is fourteen, his intelligence is only equal to that of a boy of eight or nine. He is most unlikely to pass the Claverton Scholarship examination, so I have been compelled to withdraw his name from the list of entrants.” Smiling politely, the Head walked away, leaving Professor Potter rooted to the spot in stunned amazement.
THE NEW “BOY.”
Commander Prout, the Chairman of the Governors, frowned impatiently. The Board meeting should have been finished by this time, but a snag had cropped up at the last minute. The snag was Professor Tobias Potter, who stood before the Board, shaking with fury. “Of course we are always ready to listen to any reasonable complaint, Professor Potter,” said the Chairman. “What is it you want us to do?” “I want you to sack Jameson!” roared Professor Potter. “Get a new Headmaster here at once!” The Governors blinked at each other in surprise. Dr Jameson was in the room, a bleak smile on his face. “Perhaps I had better explain, gentlemen,” put in Dr Jameson coolly. “Professor Potter is annoyed because his grandson has just failed in an intelligence test. Ho doubt it is very galling for a brilliant man like the Professor to have a stupid grandson, but I feel he can hardly blame me for that.” “That’s not the point!” yelled the Professor. “The point is, my grandson didn’t do the test. I did!” Dr Jameson’s jaw dropped. The Governors stared at each other again. The Chairman frowned. “Really, Professor,” muttered Commander Prout, “such behaviour is hardly to be expected from a man in your position. Really—” “I know all that!” snorted Professor Potter, red with rage. “I intended to explain afterwards.” He glared at the Board. “You all know of my achievements in the field of science, gentlemen. Do you consider that I have no more intelligence than a boy of eight? Do you think it likely that I would fail to pass the Claverton Scholarship examination?” Commander Prout glanced at his fellow Governors uneasily. He did not want to offend the Professor if he could help it. The Professor always gave a very generous subscription to the school funds, a subscription which the Governors could ill afford to lose. “What exactly do you want us to do, Professor?” “Jameson has stated that I am unlikely to pass the Claverton Scholarship examination,” thundered the professor. “I demand to be allowed to remain at the school and take the examination.
When I have passed, as I most certainly will do, I shall expect Jameson to resign. Commander Prout coughed. “What do you say to that, Dr Jameson?” he inquired. “It is in keeping with the rest of the Professor’s remarks,” said the Head stiffly. “Hotheaded nonsense!” The Professor spluttered incoherently. “Dashed impudence!” he screeched. “I will take the examination! Otherwise I’ll remove my grandson from the school and withhold my usual subscription.” “Have you—er—any objection to Professor Potter’s suggestion, Dr Jameson?” asked the Chairman. “That matter is for you to decide, gentlemen,” said the Head, bleakly. “If you are agreeable, I offer no objection. There is just one point I should like to make clear. If Professor Potter is to sit the Claverton examination, he must not expect preferential treatment. In fairness to the other entrants, he must be subjected to exactly the same conditions as they are. “I am fully prepared to accept the same conditions as the other entrants!” barked the Professor. The Governors went into a huddle. “Ahem!” Commander Prout looked up. “We feel—er—there would be no harm in Professor Potter remaining at the school and entering for the examination if he wishes. It would be purely for his own satisfaction, of course, because he could not actually be awarded a scholarship. In fact, after a day or two we feel tempers will have cooled somewhat and Professor Potter will take a more reasonable view of the situation, which, undoubtedly has its humorous aspect—” “I see nothing funny about it!” Professor Potter glowered. “I have no intention of changing my views. I’ll stay here and take that dashed scholarship examination if it’s the last thing I do!” With that he strode from the room.
That evening Professor Potter staggered into Study Three in the Fourth Form passage and dumped two bulging suitcases on the floor. He gazed around the tiny room in disapproval. “The dashed studies seem to be a lot smaller since my day,” he grumbled. “However, I suppose I must make the best of it.” Study Three was occupied by Sammy, who was busy doing his prep. He looked up. “You’re not coming in here with me, Grandad?” he asked. “I most certainly am,” said Professor Potter. “A horse-faced gentleman by the name of Cornell told me to put my things in here.” “Oh, old Corny! He’s the Fourth Form master,” said Sammy. “All the chaps are saying you must be crackers to want to stay here and take an examination at your age. They think it must be some sort of a joke.” “It is not a joke, it is a very serious matter,” replied Professor Potter, as he jammed his pipe in his mouth and puffed fiercely. “I intend to give Stinker Jameson the showing-up he deserves.” “I got an awful lecture over that test,” said Sammy, “but he didn’t wallop me. He blamed you for it all and he’s decided to let me go in for the scholarship—” The door opened abruptly. A short, portly man peered in and sniffed. It was Mr Cornell. “Ah, smoking! Who is smoking?” “I am,” said Professor Potter. “Smoking in studies is forbidden.” “Dash it, I’m not a boy!” grumbled the Professor. “All right, I’ll go out for a walk and smoke there.” Mr Cornell peered at his watch. “You cannot go out. It is nearly . Bedtime is at .” Professor Potter turned purple. “Dash it, you don’t expect me to go to bed at ?” he yelled. “I shall have to report you to the Headmaster if you refuse to obey orders.” “Report and be dashed to you!” bawled Professor Potter. His eyes bulged with rage. “On second thoughts, I’ll go and see Stinker myself. It’s time I had this out with him.” He strode off to the Head’s study, thumped violently on the door, and marched in. Dr Jameson was sitting at his desk. Professor Potter grabbed a chair and seated himself opposite the Head.
“Now, look here, Stinker!” he snorted. “The last time we were at this school together I used to beat the dust out of your pants, and I’m not too old to do it again.” “Potter,” said Dr Jameson composedly, “the last time we were at school together, you were a senior and I was a fag. I must remind you that the situation has changed now. I am the Headmaster. You are an entrant for the Claverton Scholarship. In future you will address me as ‘sir,’ you will not use the term ‘Stinker,’ and you will not take a seat in my study unless you are invited to do so.” “Listen—” “You listen!” said Dr Jameson. “This was your idea, Professor, and you’ll obey the rules or get out. Of course, if you wish to withdraw—” “Never!” roared the Professor. “Very well. You will go to bed at nine and rise at six-thirty. You will attend classes punctually. You will not smoke on the school premises. You will obey all orders given by masters. You—” “Jameson,” said Professor Potter, “you are doing this to force me to leave the school!” “It was understood that you would be subject to the same conditions as the other entrants for the examination,” said the Head smiling grimly. “But, of course, Potter, if you would rather not—” “Do your worst, Jameson!” barked Professor Potter. “But you won’t force me to back out. I’ll obey orders. I’ll put up with your nonsense!” He stood up. “But on the day I pass that examination, Jameson, I’ll wipe that silly grin off your face.” “You may go, Potter,” said Dr Jameson. “I was going, anyway!” snarled Grandad. He returned to Sammy’s study. “Did you tell him off?” asked Sammy hopefully. “I certainly did, my boy.” “And what time do you go to bed?” “, the same as you,” said Professor Potter gloomily.
THE TOBACCO TRICK.
It was a restless night for the Professor. He slept in the Fourth Form dormitory, next to Sammy. The bed was small and the Professor felt cramped and uncomfortable. His rage mounted steadily. The other juniors chuckled. They thought it was all a big joke. They did not expect Sammy’s Grandad to stick it for more than a day or two. “Cheer up, Grandad,” said Sammy consolingly, when they went down to breakfast next morning. “The first day at school is always the worst. You’ll get used to it. It’s half-day today anyway.” After breakfast Grandad went with Sammy and the rest of the entrants for the Claverton examination to the special classroom where they were being coached by the Head. Dr Jameson took no particular notice of the Professor, except to tell him where to sit. Then, while Grandad sat glowering at him, the Head began the mathematics lesson by chalking six problems on the blackboard. “Bring your papers to me when they are completed,” he said. Professor Potter sat and scowled, his arms folded. Then, with contemptuous assurance, he snatched up a pen and jotted down the six answers straight away. He strode out and slapped his paper on the Head’s desk. Dr Jameson gazed at it for a moment, picked up a blue pencil, and in a calm and deliberate manner slashed six enormous crosses over it. Professor Potter’s eyes bulged in amazement. “Those answers are correct!” he roared. “No doubt,” agreed Dr Jameson, “but where is the working?” “I worked them out in my head,” snapped the Professor. “In this class we work them out on paper, Potter, otherwise they are marked wrong. How do I know you didn’t copy the answers from somebody else?” “Copy!” shrieked the Professor, turning purple. “Sir, I—” “That will be all, Potter,” said Dr Jameson. “You will remain in this afternoon and work the problems out properly. Go back to your seat!”
When Sammy looked into the classroom after dinner, Grandad was sitting at one of the desks, chewing his pen furiously. It was a pleasant afternoon and the school was practically deserted. “All the beaks have gone out except the Head, Grandad,” said Sammy. “I know,” snorted Professor Potter. “He’s waiting to see if I go out without permission. Then he can run to the Governors and say that I’m not obeying the rules.” Professor Potter glared at the blank paper before him. He could have completed the problems in a very short time if he settled down to it, but he was too obstinate to do that. “Jameson can’t treat me this way,” he declared. “In my school days, Sammy, we soon put teachers in their places, we didn’t put up with any of their tomfoolery.” “Well, what are you going to do?” “I’m going out this afternoon,” declared Grandad, “in spite of Jameson. Sammy, I have an idea.” It was a short while later that Dr Jameson, who was keeping a careful lookout from his study window, saw Professor Potter slinking furtively across the quad. “I thought he’d break out,” muttered the Head, with grim satisfaction. “I’ll get him this time.” Dr Jameson hurriedly left his study and made his way towards the school grounds in the direction taken by Professor Potter. At the far end of the grounds was a tall barn. The lower part was used for storing firewood, and on the upper floor were kept the school gardening tools. Dr Jameson noticed that there was a ladder propped against the upper window. From that window a cloud of blue smoke curled. Dr Jameson paused and sniffed. “Potter’s pipe,” he muttered. “He’s up there, smoking.” The Head mounted the ladder and climbed in through the window. He stared around suspiciously. The room was empty, and on the floor in an old tin a small wad of tobacco was smouldering. Suddenly the Head whirled round and rushed back to the window, but he was too late. His ladder had mysteriously disappeared. Dr Jameson’s eyes narrowed. He could not climb down without a ladder. There was a trapdoor inside the room, leading to the floor below, but it was locked. “The scoundrel!” muttered Dr Jameson furiously. “He’s trapped me. I’ll make Potter answer for this!” He shouted as loudly as he could, but nobody heard him.
Meanwhile Professor Tobias Potter, puffing at his pipe in satisfaction, was now striding off on a pleasant afternoon ramble with Sammy. It was about when the Professor returned. By that time the Head had been released. A prefect had heard him shouting. A short while later the same prefect looked into Study Three, where Professor Potter was enjoying a lavish tea with Sammy. “Dr Jameson wants to see you, sir.” Professor Potter finished his tea in comfort, then ambled along to the Head’s study. Dr Jameson looked grim. “Potter,” he snapped, “it as you who took that ladder away from the barn window. I was trapped there all the afternoon. It was a disgraceful thing to do.” “I hope, Jameson, that you have proof of any statement you make regarding my character,” said Grandad with dignity. “I will not press that matter,” the Head declared. “There is something more serious. In spite of my orders, you have been out all the afternoon!” “That’s right. I was looking or you.” “For me?” gasped Dr Jameson. “Since you couldn’t be found anywhere,” said Professor Potter cheerfully, I was naturally apprehensive. It’s a serious thing for a Headmaster to disappear. I feared something might have happened to you. As I was the only adult person left in the school, I felt it my duty to go and search for you.” The Head choked. “You knew where I was, Potter! It’s all a trick!” “Indeed!” said Grandad, calmly. “If you have any evidence to support that remark, Jameson—” “You know I haven’t!” The Head stared at Grandad for a long time then finally rose to his feet. “Very well, Potter. We will say no more about it this time. But one word of warning. I am not a fool Potter.” “That is entirely a matter of opinion,” said Professor Potter. Dr Jameson controlled himself with an effort. “You may go, Potter!” Professor Potter departed, chuckling.
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2007