"Mr Lyward's Answer"
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IN SUCH an atmosphere, among
so many opening hearts and minds beginning quietly to become receptive,
nothing seemed impossible. One evening Mr Lyward had spent an hour or
two in his own part of the house, giving two boys a music lesson. They
went back to the dining-room for supper, where he followed them, meaning
to finish his remarks about scales. He noticed a boy, John Farmer, a
recent arrival, round whom a kind of stalemate had developed. John could
do nothing but mooch about, reiterating that he was going to leave.
Mr Lyward decided that this situation could not be allowed to continue,
and shouted at the boy, deliberately appearing to have lost his temper.
He went on to shake up the others in the room. Two boys who should have
been washing up were not there; a custom had evidently grown up that
boys who did other people's chores one evening need not do their own
the next. He wanted to know why. A discussion began, and continued while
he chivvied them, sending two to clean the kitchen, another to sweep
the dining-room, and joining another in the scullery who volunteered
to wash the plates, 'if you'll do the pots and pans, sir.' Another boy,
who had lately won a valuable University scholarship, was kidded into
doing the washing by another 'while I do the drying', which meant 'while
I do nothing'.
Soon a dozen boys were involved round Mr Lyward. He took them into
his confidence and discussed aloud what could be done to help John Farmer
to take part in their community life.
'I've never seen you in a temper before,' observed a tiny boy who had
just arrived. 'You all shirk the hard work of chores,' Mr Lyward told
them. 'It's instinctive. But here you are actually enjoying them.'
'I've noticed it's always enjoyable when you're doing a job and we're
helping,' said one boy.
'Well, I'm going to start the history of French literature with you,'
Mr Lyward told him, and quoted Ronsard's 'Dieu est en nous et par nous
fait miracle'. At that moment a boy who had been out on a 'holiday',
and far from certain to return, slipped into the room. No one paid particular
attention. Mr Lyward noticed him, went on talking about John Farmer,
and added quietly: 'After all, miracles do happen.' One boy muttered:
The boys' trust made Mr Lyward's great variety of methods possible.
He could 'improvise' a few minutes' parrying with one boy, in order
to make something clear to the community, or spar with the whole community,
in order to help one boy. On these occasions, too, the boys' detective
instinct was provoked. Where was he leading? What was he going to say
next, and to whom? The younger boys were rather bewildered, but the
relaxed and friendly feeling was probably new to them and since everyone
else seemed to listen, most of them listened. A few boys were bored
by his circuitousness. The older ones waited quietly; somewhere round
a corner of allegory or digression would appear some moral issue, deepened,
concentrated to the point where it shone as a fact.
At the 'sessions', which Mr Lyward summoned from time to time, he suggested
rather than lectured. If he had decided to attack a particular boy,
he normally did it by way of poignard-like questions. The boy thrust
back vigorously, merely exposing his defences and weak spots. Mr Lyward
might manoeuvre into a position where he could administer a coup-de-grace,
or laugh and allow himself - not often - to be worsted, or drop both
their weapons and refer the whole issue to discussion. There were so
many possibilities that no 'session', just as no boy, seems in retrospect
to have been 'typical', except that most ended gaily, and in all Mr
Lyward made great play with visual images. If ever people by indirections
found directions out, the boys at Finchden did. Mr Lyward would have
told the parable of the Good Samaritan as though the accident had just
happened on the Tenterden road.
One evening he called all the boys into the hall. They sat waiting
for him in a semicircle, on the stage, round the walls, on the floor,
on window-ledges. He came in, wearing his Trilby and a woollen scarf;
and took a chair in the middle.
'Who knows algebra, I wonder?' he asked vaguely. He had just been doing
algebra with one boy; it had suggested the kind of game he was now playing,
aimed at discovering whether they could think in symbols. 'Henry, do
you know algebra?'
'Oh, I'm sure you do. What would you say is one more than Z?'
'One more than Z?'
'If you know that, Henry, you know the whole of algebra.' This was said
with that kind of double entendre to which I have already referred;
as if he knew and they knew he was talking rubbish, and yet there was
something serious behind.
'Why Z? Why not another letter?' asked a boy.
'Don't spoil it. Come on, Henry.'
Henry was coaxed into agreeing that one more than Z was Z + 1.
'Now why did I say Z?' Mr Lyward asked.
A boy answered: 'Because if you'd said A, someone might have said that
one more than A was B.' 'And ?' 'Well - B's different.' This was good
for that particular boy.
'All right. If you know that, you know all algebra.'
Most of the boys received this calmly. Some looked puzzled. Two or
three shrugged their shoulders, as if to say 'mad'.
'I'm afraid this session is going to be about money,' said Mr Lyward
curtly. 'We don't often have sessions about money, do we?' Silence.
'I thought coming back in the car this evening that we'd have to. I'm
going to talk about hop pickers first. Some time ago two or three of
you went hop picking. They earned quite a lot of money, and put it in
the office as arranged. But the last two apple pickers - your money
isn't in the office. How much of it do you have left - Alan?'
'I don't know.'
'You don't know?' Mr Lyward looked amazed. 'You must know. You've got
it, haven't you?'
'Some of it.' '
'I don't know exactly.' '
You must have quite a lot.' It turned out that Alan had about £6
'And you, Paul?' Paul was a boy all for 'divide and rule'.
'I haven't got any.'
'You haven't got any?' Mr Lyward looked astounded.
'Where is it, then?'
'In the bank.'
'In the bank! The office is the bank. What do you mean by the bank?'
'It's in my father's bank.'
'In your father's bank! Who told you to put it there?'
'No one told me. I sent it home. It's my money.
'Is it your money?'
'I earned it - '
'It was agreed that when any of you went hop picking or apple picking,
you should put the money into the office.'
'I don't agree. I made the money and it's mine.'
'The whole question of money is becoming rather urgent,' said Mr Lyward.
'I'll tell you why. People (actually the police) have been inquiring
about some unfortunate accidents to Mr Cope's chickens. Mr Cope is our
neighbour. It seems that one of our dogs is under suspicion. If convicted
he - or rather she - will have to pay. Has she any money to pay, Riff?'
to the boy who owned the dog.
'I tied her up. She can't have done it.'
'Is she tied up now?'
'Are all our animals tied up? Eric, is your tortoise tied up?'
'No. She's asleep.'
'How do you know she can't get out when she wakes up?'
'Because she's in my suitcase.'
'It seems the tortoise is acquitted. Still, it looks as if Riff's dog
is going to be arrested for destroying Mr Cope's chickens. She'll have
to appear in Court. She'll have to get up on her hind legs and say:
'I can't help it, I've been led a dog's life." Is that an excuse? And
who'll defend her?'
'I'll defend her,' said Riff.
'Suppose she's guilty?' (She was). 'She can't pay. We'll have to pay.
We - who is we?' Long pause. 'Do you really think you had a right to
put that money in your father's bank, Paul?'
'And Archie Combe - you've just had ten shillings from the office for
your fare home.'
'On top of the ten shillings your mother sent you?'
'Yes,' laughing slightly awkwardly.
'It was bad luck your mother wrote and mentioned it,' said Mr Lyward
'And you still ask for ten shillings from the office?'
'The other was my own money.
'There!' exclaimed Mr Lyward, slapping his knee. 'That's one we know
well, isn't it? Isn't it amazing? "Oh, but I can't spend that on it
! That's my birthday money." But the money from the office isn't different.
There's always this special thing that's my own - something that's got
nothing to do with us here at Finchden Manor. Why is it your own money?'
'Because my mother gave it to me.'
'And so it's all right for Paul to put his ... ten pounds? ... fifteen
pounds?... twenty pounds?...'
'Eleven pounds,' said Paul.
'His eleven pounds in his father's bank?'
'I don't know,' said Archie.
'Paul does. You don't think he's hoping for parental support ? Parents.
I'll have to sit up for this.' Mr Lyward sat up. 'Do you want your parents
to be involved ?' He surveyed the boys over his spectacles. 'Perhaps
I ought to involve them and you in the chickens. When the barn was burnt
I was asked to pay for that. I don't know why the boy who burnt the
barn didn't wait till the chickens were in it. We could have had it
all together.' Mr Lyward opened a book. 'I'll read you something about
money. It's from Spenser's Faerie Queen':
God of the world and worldlings I me call,
Great Mammon, greatest god below the sky,
That of my plenty poure out unto all,
And unto none my graces do envye,
Riches, renowne, and principality,
Honour, estate, and all this worldes good ...
'Do you like this metre - the way it goes?'
'Couldn't care less,' Paul answered, but only Paul. The others were
Mr Lyward continued, 'Mammon had a daughter', and went on quoting,
'There as in glistring glory she did sitt,
She held a great gold chaine ylincked well,
Whose upper end to highest heven was knit,
And lower part did reach to lowest Hell;
And all that press did round about her swell
To catchen hold of that long chaine, whereby
To climbe aloft, and others to excell:
That was ...
...What was Mammon's daughter's name, do you suppose?'
'Ambition,' said Riff.
'That was Ambition,' Mr Lyward finished the quotation. 'It seems to
me you, Paul, and you, Alan, have married her already. Do you really
want to have large sums of money floating about this place? Do you,
'You'd get into the position of the boy who was here once who used to
lend it out at interest.' Mr Lyward closed the book. 'Who thinks money
can really supply you with all you want?'
'Nine-tenths,' said one boy.
'Two-tenths,' said a boy particularly keen on money.
'All I know,' said a boy called David Bradley, 'is that I find it difficult
to live on four bob a week.'
'Do boys never do anything for nothing? When I was a boy ...' Mr Lyward
slipped this in deliberately. It was an old joke and he expected interruption.
Sure enough it came. 'Ah!' said a boy. 'Geoff Miller would have walked
out.' Geoff Miller had once sent Mr Lyward a note "forbidding" him to
use certain expressions including "When I was a boy".
'Would you go hop-picking for nothing?' asked David Bradley. 'I'd say
that anyone who did that was out of his mind.'
Mr Lyward looked round them all. 'People sometimes say "Why not get
them all to do some gardening and pay them for it?" I've always refused.
It always seemed to me that something would be lost. Do you agree?'
Almost everyone said 'Yes', and obviously sincerely.
'Of course,' Mr Lyward murmured, 'there was the incident of Francis's
tent. Remember it caught fire - by an act of internal combustion? Who
paid then?' 'We did.' 'You all most gracefully agreed to a suggestion
I made at that time (boos). How many of you think I'm going to ask you
to pay the thirty-two pounds for the chickens? That's what I think we
Half the boys held up their hands.
'Hands up those who think I'm not.' Almost all the rest held up theirs.
Mr Lyward paused and said, 'Well, I'm not. When is the dance to be,
'It's up to you, sir.'
'Of course, you do realize we might have to have the dance without
food and without music, if there isn't any money to pay for it?'
Long silence. 'The hop-pickers are having their money kept for them.
But' (as it were, underlined in red) 'the apple-pickers' money might
even have been used to increase your four shillings a week. That was
another possibility I had in mind. I had been thinking of something
of that sort.'
Again this was said half-teasingly, since the apple-pickers knew their
money was not going to be made community money; and yet there was a
serious point. Another long silence.
'I'll contribute one pound towards the dance,' said Paul.
'Who thinks that a good idea?' asked Mr Lyward.
'I don't,' said a boy. 'We'd never hear the last of it.'
'Of course, there's Archie Combe's ten shillings. How many of you think
I'm going to ask him for it back?' Half the hands went up.
'I don't know,' said one boy.
'Nor do I yet,' said Mr Lyward. He got up. 'Well, anyhow, the situation's
exactly the same as when I came in. We haven't decided anything. You
all know perfectly well that I wouldn't let you have a dance here without
food or some new records. But you do see that all we've been talking
about is related?' General assent.
'Henry, what is one more than Z?'
'Z + 1.'
'Good.' Mr Lyward walked away. A group surrounded him at once, Owen
wanting to know about the dance, Riff protesting the innocence of his
dog, and Paul offering to surrender all the money in his father's bank
to Mr D., an offer which was passed by.
Flynn left Finchden Manor dramatically, after a 'session' far less
peaceful than the one just described. Two nights before it took place
he had kept the lamp in his and Geoff Miller's shack burning till midnight,
in order to read a magazine about horses. Neville had seen the light,
come out and taken the lamp away. This had angered Flynn, who had gone
into the house and banged on Neville's door, insisting on seeing him.
Neville had told him to go away. Flynn was thus in a thoroughly bad
This time the 'session', which Mr Lyward called without any particular
reference to Flynn, took place in the staff room. Mr Lyward sat deep
in an armchair, with the boys crowded round the walls and on the floor.
He began in his usual leisurely fashion, elaborating an allegory about
people who preferred the condiments of a meal to the meal itself, which
Flynn, who was standing just behind me, accompanied with impatient comments
under his breath. When Mr Lyward mentioned pickles and sauces Flynn,
who was feeling far from allegorical or poetic, grunted, "We never get
them". Mr Lyward spoke next about the boys' growing habit of asking
permission to go into Tenterden on Mondays (that day was a Monday).
Why? he asked. Was it so necessary for them to get away from Finchden
immediately the new week began? Why were they so impatient?
"Do you consider Sunday as a different day from all the rest of the
week?" Mr Lyward asked.
"Yes," said some; others, "No". Some thought Monday a special day, because
it was then the new film began.
"Is it so necessary for you to see the new film at once?" Mr Lyward
asked. This discussion about days of the week went on for some time.
Flynn continued his angry mutterings. I thought I could see the point
round which Mr Lyward was taking his preliminary ramble. On Sunday the
neighbourhood seemed dead; no distractions, above all, no cinema. If
therefore the boys all demanded permission to go out the moment Monday
dawned, did it not appear that they could not manage without those distractions?
Did they use Finchden merely as a hotel, for its accessories, and were
they indifferent to its sustenance and spirit? Hence the allegory of
the condiments. The telephone rang. Mr Lyward went into his room to
answer. When he returned a boy had lit a cigarette.
"Who told you you could smoke?" Mr Lyward demanded angrily, by now
aware of hidden possibilities in this session (and saying, "Here goes!"
to himself) 'Put it out!' The boy put it out. Mr Lyward went on talking
'Films are a drug,' a boy said virtuously.
'I suppose you sometimes do have to have drugs for sick people,' said
Mr Lyward. He started to quote some lines of poetry:
'They pass me by like shadows, crowds on crowds,
Pale ghosts of men, who hover to and fro,
Hugging their bodies round them like thin shrouds,
In which their souls were buried long ago.'
He had forgotten the next lines, said so, and continued:
'Whose ever-open maw by such is fed
Gibber at living men and idly rave,
"We only truly live, and ye are dead"
Poor souls! the anointed eye can surely trace
A dead soul's epitaph in every face.'
The calm tone in which this quotation was delivered particularly angered
Flynn, though he told me later that he liked the words. His mutterings
became louder and more frequent. Mr Lyward and one or two boys began
to discuss what was meant by 'killing time', which led Mr Lyward to
talk about the kind of boy who was attracted outside, who went often
to the cinema, who sat alone, went for walks alone.
'Yes, you ******', Flynn was rumbling, 'I want to go for a walk now.
... I want to go to the pictures now....'
'Has anyone anything to say?' Mr Lyward asked, as if casually.
'Yes, I've got plenty,' Flynn said under his breath. I heard him and
asked in an aside, 'Why don't you say it?' and it was then that he exploded.
'What else is there to do except kill time!' he flung at Mr Lyward.
'What the ******* hell have we got to do here! What do you expect us
to do except grub up fag-ends and collect enough ******* empty bottles
to get enough money to buy another fag!' He was trembling all over.
Geoff Miller, also in a tense excited state, was crushing his hand with
a kind of dead man's grip, and without knowing it was crushing his foot
too. Flynn could only keep his balance by remaining unnaturally rigid.
And all the time Geoff Miller was urging him on in whispers, 'Go on!
Give it him!'
All Flynn's frustrations came pouring out, all his pent-up arguments.
He felt completely confident for a moment, more confident than he had
'If we have any one main thing we can do, we have it taken away from
us,' he shouted. 'Wireless - horses - whatever it is! So we've got nothing
left except to sit around and go to the pictures. There's no week here,
no weekend! The only day that counts is Friday, because that's when
we're paid! The day we come here's the beginning of the week and the
day we leave's the end and that's all! Weeks are like seconds, they
don't count ! Nobody remembers the seconds of an hour that's past, but
I'll make bloody sure you remember this second for the rest of your
'Why did you come here?' demanded Mr Lyward, rounding on him deliberately.
'Because I've been kicked here and kicked there and now I've been kicked
to ******* Finchden!'
'Why did you come... ?'
'Because I was ******* well made to come....
'You didn't have to come here...'
'I didn't want to come...'
The telephone rang again and Mr Lyward spoke without leaving the room.
This telephone call was Flynn's undoing. Before, he had felt in command.
Everything had poured out without thought. After the call was finished
he tried to collect the threads and lost them. Trying to gain points,
thinking before he spoke, he became inarticulate and in a minute or
two really hysterical. Amid the rage of words and tears I heard all
his hates - names of headmasters, names of doctors, names of psychiatrists
- and then Mr Lyward cutting in, attacking him in a hard, cold, deliberate
voice. When he spoke of Flynn's 'guttersnipe existence', it seemed for
a moment that Flynn might become physically violent. Perhaps he didn't
'You're told you can go when you like,' he shouted, 'and then you are
kept here, just by words and talk and being told you're not ready to
go, until you ******* well don't know what to think about yourself'
He went on for a minute or two, then, when he had no more to let go,
shoved his way to the door and left. There was a long silence. Mr Lyward
sent Neville to follow Flynn. Two or three boys could not throw off
the tension Flynn had left behind and had identified themselves so emotionally
with him that they had to say something in his support.
'Where is all this leading to, sir?' one of them exclaimed.
'Nowhere,' retorted Mr Lyward, 'unless it shows you something. Do you
think that boy's ready to leave? Did he sound like it just now?'
'All the same,' said another boy, 'Some people do want to go and try
things out for themselves.'
Mr Lyward turned on him. 'What effort have you made?' he demanded. 'You've
been given permission to look for a job for yourself What have you done
about it?' In fact this boy had done nothing.
Mr Lyward gently and slowly recovered the threads of allegory. He knew
exactly what he had done, and that the vibrations would be felt for
some time by himself and others. He needed and contrived to end the
'session' lightly on laughter and a dying fall, and most of the boys
Flynn packed his rucksack and waited to see Mr Lyward in order to get
money for his departure. He refused to speak to Neville, went round
to the entrance to Mr Lyward's part of the house and arrived just in
time for Neville, who had dodged round another way, to put his foot
in the door. Flynn refused to wait and left. Neville followed him to
Tenterden; not for the first time. They tossed who should pay for a
cup of coffee. Neville lost. No wonder; it was a double-headed penny.
But somehow Neville managed to coax Flynn back to Finchden, where he
came to see me. He resumed his accusations against Mr Lyward and the
whole place in a calmer tone of voice. After he had been talking for
a few minutes, I interrupted him and went to tell Mr Lyward that he
was with me. Mr Lyward consented to see Flynn for ten minutes in the
They talked like old friends not for ten minutes, but for an hour.
Flynn started by saying: 'I want to leave whether it's bad for me, or
not.' Mr Lyward answered that if Flynn wanted to do that, he could always
feel that he had Finchden behind him, as a place to which he could return
not, of course, as a resident, but as a friend; the staff and he himself
would always be ready to listen and help with advice. He made it abundantly
clear that he thought Flynn in no way ready to leave; but if he did
leave, it would be with everyone's best wishes 'though not' (smiling)
'with my blessing'. Flynn became quite relaxed. He apologized for his
outburst, and was soon giving an account of the time when he and Geoff
Miller had run away and Fitzy had had to fetch them back from Hampshire.
When he described the two of them asleep in a ditch with a white flag
flying, Mr Lyward laughed and said: 'I wish I'd come to fetch you,'
- all this in the room in which Flynn had been swearing at Mr Lyward
only two hours earlier.
Finally Flynn asked how much money he could have. Mr Lyward asked how
much he had been given on his last hike.
'How long was that for?'
'How long are you going for, this time?'
'Well, I shall try to find a fellow who's starting a ranch in Suffolk.
I may need a week.'
'What proportion of five pounds does that make?'
'Oh, come on, let me have the whole five pounds.'
Mr Lyward laughed. 'Oh, all right, have it,' he said.
So Flynn went off in search of a job early next morning, with five
pounds from the office, a ticket to London he had bought to run away,
and three pounds he had extorted out of another boy which he had not
mentioned. If he had mentioned the three, he would not have got the
He returned for the last time as a boy at Finchden to collect his belongings
and acquisitions, and to say goodbye. I was with Mr Lyward when he came
in. They talked in a friendly laughing way for a while. Then Mr Lyward
said: 'There's something I knew about you when you first came here.
I couldn't say it to you then, and I haven't been able to say it the
whole time you've been here. Now I can. He took a sheet of paper and
drew a large figure, like a small child's drawing, holding out two pin-like
arms. Underneath he wrote 'Giver'. Further along he drew a large square
package, inscribed 'Gift'; further along still, a much smaller figure,
inscribed 'You', holding out its arms to the larger figure. 'What you
have always been asking for is the gift,' Mr Lyward said. 'What you
have really wanted is the giver.' For a moment Flynn said nothing. He
and Mr Lyward bore a strange resemblance to one another at that moment,
Mr Lyward seated, his face down on his collarbone, Flynn standing, his
face dug into the collar of a blue polo sweater. Then Flynn reached
out a hand, folded the paper, put it into his pocket, shook hands and
went out. I drove him to the station. He said he had never expected
to leave Finchden in so friendly a way. He had expected to be chucked
out, he said, 'as I was everywhere else', and he named boys, who - as
he thought - had cordially disliked him, but had come up to wish him
luck. 'Have you got that bit of paper?' I asked. He tapped his breastpocket.
'I'll keep it all my life,' he said.
Mr Lyward once said that truancy had become more of a problem everywhere
since the war. Before the war most boys came to stay, whatever other
difficulties they caused. Flynn once said: 'I am a nomad'. Mr Lyward
seized the word and used it the same evening half-jokingly to a Probation
Officer. 'There is now a nomad population'. Boys who left on their own
were an extremely small minority. The overwhelming majority never even
thought of walking out. It does stand out, however, that a larger number
of boys took their lives into their own hands after the war than before.
The reason may be that Mr Lyward now had a different kind of boy. Many
now came to him from a much poorer class. They felt the pressure to
get on much more acutely than the well-to-do, especially if they had
also had difficult homes, or none.
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