If Arnie Jenks hadn't managed to be seen by the emergency dentist so promptly that morning, to extract a stubborn baby tooth that was giving him a little jip, he may have ended up stuck in the art room or library, being made to catch up with some homework.
But being considered well enough to travel, he signed back in at reception, while his twenty or so
classmates milled about the parking area waiting for the driver to fix the engine of the coach. So
faking a look of "I'm so excited! I'm bursting with keenness!" to his housemaster, Mr Banstead, he
dragged himself outside to join his friends. It was freezing, as he scuffed his way across the yard
and, for a second, he thought about returning for his jumper and scarf but wasn't sure where he
had left them. So that idea evaporated.
Once the engine grumbled into life, they were on their way. Arnie sat at the back of the coach having offered to nurse the large cardboard box containing lunch. The number of times his eyes glazed over the sealed cellophane wrappings, which blurred the identity of the chocolate bars and crisps, he forgot - but it seemed to occupy his thoughts more than anything else as they drove. He was always feeling hungry.
As the roads narrowed and the signposts became smaller, the coach suddenly reigned itself in to allow an eager taxi to overtake. Arnie was too high up to see much of who was inside but as the car horn parped twice in thanks he caught a glint from the top of a silver walking cane that the occupant in the back seat was gripping tightly.
After a moment of indecision at a rather complicated roundabout whether to follow the crumpled map that Arnie's form mistress was trying to read or the SatNav that clung precariously to the mud flaked window, her authority persuaded the driver to swing right off the main road to which the SatNav responded by insisting they should now be in the middle of a field.
Moments later her decision proved correct as they turned onto a long stretch of B-road and meandered gently along before the driver pointed out of the window.
'We are here,' he shouted, back over his shoulder, relieved.
Arnie Jenks was still thinking of food, as the coach turned past the lodge gate and, struggling to avoid colliding with either of the narrow stone pillars, lurched up the drive towards Shabbington Hall.
So bored was he at the prospect of the day ahead, that he failed to see the storm clouds starting to gather far away on the horizon.
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