After his introduction to Headmaster Florian, Mr. Braithwaite nears a classroom out of which a tall red-head rushes; he grabs the girl to keep her from running into him, and she apologizes. Then, Mr. Braithwaite enters the classroom where about forty boys and girls turn to stare at him. There is no sign of a teacher, and one of the students asks, "Are you taking old Hack's place?" Excusing himself, Braithwaite hurries out to the staffroom, realizing the meaning of Mr. Florian's remark, "Things are different here."
Reclining in an easy chair in this staffroom upstairs is Mr. Theo Weston, a large hairy "cadaverous" young man who appear untidy. Making an off-color joke, he says to Braithwaite, "Ah another lamb to the slaughter--or should we say black sheep?" Controlling his temper, Braithwaite introduces himself. Then, Mrs. Grace Dale-Evans enters, introducing herself and tidying up the room. Matching the slovenly appearance of the staffroom, when Braithwaite goes into the courtyard, the outdoors area of the school is littered with newspapers, crumpled paper bags, and "great blobs of mucus" indicating that students suffered from colds. A high wall separates the school from the churchyard.
Remembering how different this East London school is from that of his childhood days in Georgetown (British Guiana), Braithwaite becomes depressed. But, the sound of a handbell interrupts his thoughts; it is lunchtime. Mrs. Dale-Evans greets him again and tells him tea will soon be ready; in the meantime, she introduces the new teacher to the rest of the faculty. She surprises Braithwaite by adding comments on each teacher in a whispered aside.
There is Miss Josy Dawes, short, strong appearing, and rather mannish. Then, Miss Euphemia Phillips, mousy and young looking with a look of helplessness, and Mr. Theo Weston. "Fancy being able to shave off your manhood whenever you like," Mrs. Dale-Evans whispers. The next introduction is Mrs. Drew, a white-haired matron who is "the Old Man's deputy." Miss Vivian Clintridge, an artist, is introduced next, exuding a "brash animal charm"; following her is Miss Gillian Blanchard, a lovely woman with dark eyes who is also a new teacher. After these introductions, Mrs. Drew and Miss Clintridge--Clinty as she is called--encourage Mr. Braithwaite to stay at the school.
As the bell rings, the others leave except from Miss Blanchard, who marks books. She tells Braithwaite that they have said the same things about staying to her.
"There is something rather odd about this school, something rather frightening and challenging at the same time."
She explains that there is no corporal punishment at the school, or any other form, for that matter. As the children are allowed to speak freely, they often do so without tact. She tells Braithwaite that she finds them difficult because she has no experience. At this point, Mrs. Dale-Evans reappears and shows Braithwaite around the Domestic Science Department. Impressed at the neatness around him, Braithwaite is even more impressed by the discipline of her classroom. The girls enter, wash their hands, and follow instructions. Encouraged, Braithwaite reflects,
If she could accomplish such near perfection without recourse to beatings, then I would most certainly have a shot at it. This woman with her ready, listening ear and proven, sound advice, was both teacher and mother to these girls....But I felt certain...she could be tough--very tough.