by Tom Sharpe
The arrival of Peregrine Roderick Clyde-Browne on earth was authenticated by his birth certificate. His father was named as Oscar Motley Clyde-Browne, occupation Solicitor, and his mother as Marguerite Diana, maiden name Churley. Their address was The Cones, Pinetree Lane, Virginia Water. It was also announced in The Times with the additional note, 'Most grateful thanks to the staff of St Barnabas' Nursing Home.'
The thanks were premature but at the time sincere. Mr and Mrs Clyde-Browne had waited a long time for a child and were about to resort to medical help when Peregrine was conceived. Mrs Clyde-Browne was then thirty-six and her husband already forty. They were therefore understandably delighted when, after a surprisingly easy labour, Peregrine weighed in at 8 lb 5 oz at 6 a.m. on 25 March 196-.
'He's a beautiful baby,' said the Sister with greater regard for Mrs Clyde-Browne's feelings than for the facts. Peregrine's beauty was of the sort usually seen after a particularly nasty car accident. 'And such a good one.'
Here she was nearer the truth. From the moment of his birth Peregrine was good. He seldom cried, ate regularly and had just the right amount of wind to reassure his parents that he was thoroughly normal. In short, for the first five years he was a model child and it was only when he continued to be a model child through his sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth years that the Clyde-Brownes had cause to wonder if Peregrine was more model than was entirely proper for a small boy.
'Behaviour: Impeccable?' said Mr Clyde-Browne, reading his school report. Peregrine went to a very expensive preparatory school as a day-boy. 'I find that a little disturbing.'
'I can't imagine why. Peregrine has always been a very good boy and I think it does us credit as his parents.'
'I suppose so, though when I was his age nobody said my behaviour was impeccable. On the contrary...'
'You were an extremely naughty little boy. Your mother admitted as much.'
'My mother would,' said Mr Clyde-Browne, whose feelings for his late mother were mixed. 'And I don't much like this 'Tries hard' against all the subjects. I'd rather his work was impeccable and his behaviour left something to be desired.'
'Well, you can't have everything. If he misbehaved you'd call him a hooligan or vandal or something. Be grateful he tries hard at work and doesn't get into trouble.'
So for the time being Mr Clyde-Browne left it at that and Peregrine continued to be a model child. It was only after another year of impeccable behaviour and hard trying that Mr Clyde-Browne approached the headmaster for a fuller report on his son.
'I'm afraid there's no chance of his entering for a scholarship to Winchester,' said the headmaster when Mr Clyde-Browne expressed this hope. 'In fact it's extremely doubtful if he'd get into Harrow.'
'Harrow? I don't want him to go to Harrow,' said Mr Clyde-Browne, who had a conventional opinion of Old Harrovians, 'I want him to have the best possible education money can buy.'
The headmaster sighed and crossed to the window. His was a most expensive prep, school. 'The fact of the matter is, and you must appreciate that I have had some thirty years in the teaching profession, that Peregrine is an unusual boy. A most unusual boy.'
'I know that,' said Mr Clyde-Browne, 'And I also know that every report I've had says his behaviour is impeccable and that he tries hard. Now I can face facts as well as the next man. Are you suggesting he's stupid?'
The headmaster turned his back to the desk with a deprecatory gesture. 'I wouldn't go as far