When Miranda and Ferdinand were looking for a suitable place to educate their son Edward they did the rounds of a number of possible schools in Shakespeareville and eventually happened across an institution on the edge of town that looked as though it might just fit the bill.
This was the intriguingly named School for Scoundrels, proprietor and head teacher S Hylock. They asked for an interview with the man in question, which he was only too pleased to grant.
“Do come in”, said Mr Hylock, “take a seat and let me tell you all about our wonderful institution”.
“This is the first I’ve heard of the School for Scoundrels”, said Miranda. “Is it a free school?”
“Free?” said My Hylock, who looked somewhat offended at the very idea, “Free? I should say not. Our fees are substantial, not to say extortionate, but worth every pound, although I stick to sterling pounds rather than fleshy ones these days. I had a little run-in with the authorities in Venice some time ago, which you may have heard about.”
“I’m not sure we did”, said Ferdinand, “We were stranded on my father-in-law’s enchanted island at the time, and there was something of a news blackout.”
“Perhaps that was just as well”, said Mr Hylock, “otherwise you might have heard things about me that could have put you off coming here.”
“Such as what?” asked Miranda.
“No matter, no matter”, said Mr Hylock, “let’s just stick to getting your little treasure into my clutches … I mean into my school, shall we?”
“Do you teach the National Curriculum?” asked Ferdinand.
“I prefer to call it my Notional Curriculum”, said Mr Hylock. “Of course, we offer the three Rs, as you might expect.”
“The three Rs?”
“That’s right – Roguishness, Rapscality and Racketeering. We take the latter right through to A-level. I teach the classes myself”.
“Are your members of staff properly qualified?” asked Ferdinand.
“They certainly are”, said Mr Hylock, “I’ve got Julius Caesar himself teaching Latin, and real kings on the payroll. King Henry V gives fencing lessons, and King Richard III is on the domestic staff of the boarding side of the establishment – he tucks the little darlings up in bed at night, and most of them are still alive in the morning.”
“What about lunchtime?” Miranda wanted to know. “I hope your catering arrangements are of a suitable standard?”
“We have an excellent team of caterers”, said Mr Hylock. “They were recommended to me by my Scottish friend Beth, known as Mac for obvious reasons. Blasted Heath Catering use a range of unusual ingredients that can be locally sourced – newts, bats and suchlike – and do remarkable things with them. I can honestly say that you will never have seen anything like the meals they produce.”
“And what about physical education?” Ferdinand wondered. “I want our Eddie to be given every opportunity to develop into a fit, healthy individual.”
“I can give you every assurance on that score,” said Mr Hylock. “None of our children are overweight, although I must admit that the fact that nobody seems to eat much at lunchtime might have something to do with that.”
“Let me also say”, he went on, “that our general educational ethos in the School for Scoundrels, namely to ensure that our charges get rich quick by foul means and even fouler, might sometimes result in them having to scarper pronto from the scene of the crime, so physical fitness is very high on our list of priorities.”
“Well, that all sounds pretty reasonable,” said Miranda. “Just tell me, though, where do you rank on the educational league tables?”
“Right at the top, of course”, said Mr Hylock.
“Why ‘of course’?” asked Ferdinand.
“Because”, said My Hylock, “the tables are compiled by one of our brightest ex-pupils. There are School for Scoundrels alumni all over the place, especially in America. Wherever there’s dodgy dealing going on, there’s an excellent chance that our thorough grounding in everything that’s underhand could be behind it.”
“So are you saying that our little Eddie could turn out to be a complete scoundrel?” asked Miranda.
“Absolutely!” said Mr Hylock. “Honesty gets you nowhere these days. Your son will be far better off lying and cheating his way through life, and this is just the place for him to learn the necessary skills, for a substantial fee, of course.
“If I might misquote a certain famous playwright, ‘All are born straight, but pay me the agreed rate and I’ll soon extract the straightness from them’”.