Supper took place at seven o'clock in the evening; this was for all staff and seniors, the latter being children over the age of eleven.
The tables that I had originally seen in the hail were again laid with green check tablecloths: these cloths saw service in the Community for, I should think, about thirty years. A great many more tables were laid in the dining-room which opened off the hall.
I sat in the hall, next a large fat girl called Elsie; she was very kind and explained life at the Community to me for the entire meal, without apparently pausing to draw breath or stop eating. The food was very good and there was plenty of it, but I thought I had never had any meal in such noise or seen such fast eating.
We reached the end of the meal and a little bell tinkled from the dining-room; "it's for silence", said Elsie, and then I heard "Tables can clear". I must have heard that statement many thousands of times in my career at the Community. A boy or girl from each table shot up and with incredible speed, made for some side-tables, where they collected wooden knife-boxes which, with equal rapidity were filled with knives and forks by the head of each table, the boxes and plates were whisked back to the side-tables and the 'clearers' sat down. I was a fast worker myself and consequently always too impatient with the slow; "not enough attention to detail" I was to be told many times byMiss Leila but I thought the speed of that first night's clearing quite wonderful.
The following morning Ethel Davies, or Miss "Dave", as I learnt she was always called, saw the children of the group I was to take over from her off to school. I watched with admiration the easy way she seemed to have of getting twenty boys and girls out of sandals and into outdoor shoes, the boys into black lace-up boots and all of them into navy blue mackintoshes, and off they went to school. I did just begin to wonder then if I should be able to do the same.
All the children under eleven years of age were educated at the Community's school which was housed in the old stable-block.
At half past-eleven I took my first walk with this Junior study group; it was the first of thousands probably, each walk always totally different from the last. This first one was unforgettable.
I collected the children from school, all coated and shod and we moved slowly up the drive to the front cf the house where we stood in a huge phalanx outside the front door: no one moved, we just stood. "Come on," I said brightly, "we'll go down to the lake". The boys then suddenly ran round and round in circles shouting and yelling; the little girls stood in knots and groups giggling and laughing.
A window was suddenly thrown open and Miss Leila looked out -
"Go on: go on!” she shouted. "Whatever are you all doing?" "Yes", I said hopefully, "We're just going".
We all moved slowly away from the window and went very slowly down the drive; the boys who always seemed to act as one, then took a lot of paper torn from exercise books out of their capacious mackintosh pockets and began tearing it up.
"A Paper-chase! a Paper-chase! Let's have one!" they screamed. They rushed down the drive scattering paper everywhere, through the gate, tore across parkland and disappeared from sight.
"Oh!" screamed the little girls and rushed pell mell after them.
"Here, stop! wait!" I screamed, "Where are you all going?" But by then they had gone.
It was frightful, I thought, they'll all fall in the lake and be drowned, or if not drowned, they'll be soaked. I must get there too: better I should be drowned with them than have to go back on my very first day and say they had all gone.
I ran madly down the road. and suddenly saw the whole crowd of them hiding behind some vast plane trees. The boys sprang out:
"Thought we'd gone, didn't you?" they shouted. With as much dignity as was possible under the circumstances I simply said -
"We'll go back now", but on looking at my watch found we had only been out for about fifteen minutes. "No, we'll go on a bit" I said. "You said, go back” they shouted.