Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: John Smith, Martha Jones, Headmaster Rocastle
Word Count: 1789
Summary: Mr. Smith arrives to take up his new post as the history teacher at the Farringham School for Boys.
Prompt #90: Home
When the motor-car came to a stop in front of the school, the driver jumped out and circled around to open the door for the new schoolteacher. A tall man wearing a fedora, he cocked his head up to keep an eye on the edge of the cloth roof as he stepped out. He turned to fetch his personal bag on the seat, but the driver stopped him. “I’ll get that, sir. You go on. The headmaster will be in his office.”
“Good man, Ames. Thank you.” He took a few steps towards the building, then stopped to get a good look at the school grounds. An old, worn complex, obviously a converted manor, it was nevertheless neatly kept: the lawns were carefully manicured and the main circular driveway was clear of weeds and debris, a British flag flapping on a pole in the grassy center. The military bent of the school was evident, as through an archway, he could see a wide lawn with targets set up for shooting practice in the distance. The Farringham School for Boys had a fine reputation, and this appointment was going to be a good opportunity for him.
“Come, Martha. We mustn’t keep the headmaster waiting,” he called without looking back, and strode towards the entrance of the school.
“Yes, Mr. Smith. Coming, sir.” Mr. Smith’s dark-skinned maid had climbed out of the motor-car after the footman had retrieved the bags in the passenger compartment. She straightened and dusted off her coat, then trotted to catch up to her master, staying respectfully behind him as they entered.
The interior of the school was far richer than the outside, its marble floors, brass fixtures, and mahogany paneling gleaming, even with its daily trample of schoolboys. Martha spotted a pair of maids scrubbing the floor in a corridor off the main hallway and sighed inwardly; she expected she would be them tomorrow. She reminded herself that this wasn’t permanent, and that she was doing this for a very good reason.
After a polite inquiry, a boy escorted the newcomers to the headmaster’s office. Mr. Smith knocked lightly on the door and was beckoned in by a gruff male voice.
“Headmaster Rocastle?” Mr. Smith’s tone was tentative as he pushed open the door.
“Ah, yes. You must be Mr. Smith. Welcome to Farringham.” The headmaster rose from his chair behind the desk and extended his hand in greeting. Removing his hat, Mr. Smith stepped forward and gripped his hand firmly, smiling politely. Martha noticed that Mr. Rocastle, a stern but handsome man in his early fifties, did not return that smile. She saw his eyes flick over Mr. Smith, critically appraising the younger man’s appearance - personal grooming, style of traveling coat he wore, even the length of his sleeves - then turned their attention to her for a momentary appraisal. Though his expression did not change, she knew that she hadn’t passed his standards. “Please sit down.”
Mr. Smith seated himself in one of the chairs in front of the desk. Martha knew she should remain standing near the door. “Thank you for sending your car to bring us from the railway station, headmaster. It was a luxury that I did not expect.”
“There was no reason for you to hire a coach here. You made good time. You should have plenty of time to situate yourself before the evening meal. Ames will have your trunks taken to your apartments.” The headmaster picked up a paper from his desk and glanced at it. “Your credentials are impeccable. Honors at the University of Birmingham. A fine record at King Edward’s School. Why did you decide to come to this tiny village?”
Mr. Smith stuttered a bit. “Oh, uh, I decided I had enough of the city. A smaller town and a good school. With a good history curriculum and a strong military tradition.”
The headmaster nodded and put down the paper. “The school is delighted to have you, Mr. Smith. You will, of course, be expected to uphold the credit and reputation of this institution. You should start first with your appearance.” His eyes fixed on Mr. Smith’s hair, the top of which was long and flyaway.
Mr. Smith’s voice squeaked in confusion. “I’m sorry?” He followed Mr. Rocastle’s eyes and clapped his hand to his crown to feel the state of his hair. “Oh! It must be the travelling, sir. I assure you, my hair does not normally stand on end.” Martha kept her face carefully neutral, though her eyes danced with laughter.
“See that it doesn’t. So, who is this servant you have brought with you?” Again, the disdainful eyes raked across Martha.
Mr. Smith rose to his feet. “This is Martha. She’s served my family for years, and she’s my responsibility now. I had hoped to find her a position here at the school. She is a hard worker and most faithful.” Martha said nothing, but tried her best to look eager and dependable. She needed to stay close to Mr. Smith, and she could only do that by working at the school.
“We have all the servants we need already, Mr. Smith.”
“Could there be room for just one more, please, sir? She has been faithful to my family for years, but I cannot afford to keep a personal servant.”
Mr. Rocastle set his jaw. It was obvious to Martha that he didn’t care one jot about her, but he wanted to keep his new schoolteacher happy. “I cannot afford another servant, but I can afford half a servant. If you can pay for the rest of her keep, she can be your personal servant and spend the rest of her time serving the school.”
“Yes, sir, I can do that. Thank you, sir.” Mr. Smith bowed.
In her relief, Martha blurted, “Thank you very much, sir!”
The headmaster glared at her in surprise. “Mr. Smith. You will keep your servant under control.”
“Yes, sir.” He shot a reprimanding glance at Martha, and she stepped back, bowing her head contritely. She kept her silence, but the thoughts running through her head were less than polite.
“You should go set yourself up. And have one of the boys show her to the servants’ quarters. She’ll have a bed and uniform there. Welcome to Farringham, Mr. Smith.” The two men shook hands, and Martha followed Mr. Smith out into the hallway.
“There. That wasn’t bad.” Mr. Smith deposited his hat back on his head and smiled warmly at Martha. “I told you I would look out for you. Shall we go find my apartments?”
The school was a maze of twisting corridors and steep staircases, but they found Mr. Smith’s apartments with the help of one of the maids, a girl named Jenny. They consisted of a large office, with his sleeping area and a fine fireplace, and a book room. His trunk and bags were piled near the door.
“This looks too grand for me.” Stooping to pick up his bag, he strode over to the window. “This prospect is splendid. I can see for miles from here. And the sky! At night, I am sure, the stars will be brilliant.”
Martha dragged the trunk across the room to the desk near the window. She tried to pop open the main clasp, but it was locked. “May I have the key to your trunk, sir?” When he didn’t answer her, she looked up at him. He was staring out of the window at the sky, seemingly lost in a daydream. She bit her lip. They had only been travelling for less than a day now, since he’d chosen to change and hide, and he already did this a lot, got lost within himself. Was he remembering? Was he missing the man he had been? She didn’t know: when she had asked him what he was dreaming about, either he didn’t know or he wasn’t sharing it with her.
She went to his side and asked him quietly, “Mr. Smith?”
“Oh. Yes?” He was confused.
“May I have the key to your trunk, sir?”
“Oh, certainly!” He unbuttoned his coat, then patted the pockets of his jacket, then waistcoat, then trousers. “Ah, here it is.” He fished it out of his trouser pocket and handed it to her. As she returned to the trunk, he removed his coat and hat and hung them on the stand near the door. He then pulled out his fob watch, unclipped the chain, and dropped it on the nearest surface, which happened to be a bookshelf in the book room.
Martha immediately darted over and picked it up. “Oh, sir, let’s put that watch in a safe place. How about on the mantle?” She crossed over to the fireplace to choose a place for it.
“Hm? What watch?” His eyes were unfocused as he looked at her, and after blinking a few times, he shook his head and began unpacking his bag.
Mr. Smith didn’t have many belongings and it didn’t take the pair of them very long to unpack everything and arrange the room. They stood back and surveyed their handiwork.
“Excellent! This is everything I could want. It already feels more like home than anywhere I have ever been. This will be a splendid new life for me.” His eyes shone with a contentment that Martha had never seen before.
He circled around the desk and picked up a piece of paper. “Oh, and my class schedule is here. Three classes tomorrow. I shall have my evening filled, preparing for them.” He placed it back on the desk and tapped it twice. “I’ll be wanting my breakfast and my tea here, and you’ll need to tidy up every day, and laundry, of course. And then you’ll have your duties to the school. You should probably get yourself situated now. Thank you, Martha.”
“You’re welcome, sir.” She curtsied but before she left the room, she looked back at Mr. Smith, who had picked up a book and had already forgotten she was there. She leaned against the door and contemplated her future of scrubbing floors, serving arrogant boys, and protecting Mr. Smith. This wasn’t going to be a good time for her. He had found his home, his happiness, but it all depended on her.
She could do this; she could and would do anything for him. He had to hide for three months, and at the end of those three months, she would tell Mr. Smith to open the watch. The Doctor would return and she would be free. Her eyes shining with the memory of the Doctor, she closed Mr. Smith’s door and headed downstairs to her new home.