Of all the days for Harold to be kept after class! Miss Penny stared at her open ledger, and then at the clock on her desk. Four thirty-two. He would be here any minute, and today they would have a very unwelcome witness.
Miss Penny glanced back at Harold, who was obediently copying out the words “Knowledge is Power.” Well, she might as well get on with her lecture, before Rex stepped in the door.
She swiveled in her chair. “Harold, may I have your attention for a moment?”
Harold turned his head but did not stop writing on the blackboard. “Sure, Miss Penny, but can I keep writing while you talk? I gotta get this done so I can get to baseball practice.”
Miss Penny drew in her breath disapprovingly. “That’s ‘may I,’ not ‘can I,’ Harold. You may continue to write, but give me your ears.”
“Sure, Miss Penny.” Harold grinned, turned back to the blackboard and said in a murmur, “I am not spending enough time on my homework, and thus my grades are suffering. You are disappointed with my behavior in class. Must you remind me that knowledge is power? My education is very important and I must be dutiful in meeting the requirements set before me.”
“Harold Porter!” Miss Penny exclaimed, rising from her chair in indignation.
Just then Rex entered the room. As soon as he saw Harold, his hand, which was holding a white box tied with a pink ribbon, shot behind his back. Miss Penny thumped back into her chair, feeling embarrassed. She wished fervently that all her classmates would become as good as angels, and she would never have to go through this again.
Rex strolled over to her desk. “How are you this fine afternoon, Miss Penny?”
Miss Penny looked at him with an almost exasperated expression. Couldn’t he come back in fifteen minutes when Harold had gone home? Now she would not even be able to properly scold Harold for his impertinence. “Very fine, Mr. Dartmoor.”
Rex leaned his arm on her desk and smiled. Miss Penny was very aware of Harold’s grin behind her. How she wished she might reverse time and simply send Harold home with a note.
“Are you still willing to go out to dinner with me this evening?” Rex continued gaily. Miss Penny felt that she could rise from her seat and beat him over the head with her ruler. He knew perfectly well that she had been in the middle of a lecture, and he was having too much fun to let her finish.
“Yes, Mr. Dartmoor,” she said coolly, “but I am not yet done here, if you would excuse me.”
Rex continued to lean against the desk. “Go right ahead, don't mind me.”
Miss Penny glowered at him, then turned to Harold, who had stopped writing and was grinning widely at them both. “Harold, continue writing please. Now, first I must reprimand you for your impertinence. That you have memorized what I have to say to you does show that I need to be a little more varied in how I speak, but it also shows that this is by no means the first time you have been scolded because of laziness in regards to your homework. I’m ashamed of you, Harold. You ought to know that a boy of your age should be putting more effort into his schooling.” A wave of frustration welled up in Miss Penny over Harold’s impertinence, his laziness, and the whole present situation. “I cannot understand why you do not work a little harder. You have the brain for it, but you don’t seem to care enough to try.”
The tears she felt starting to rise must have been audible in her voice, for Rex’s demeanor suddenly changed. He stood up straight and looked at Harold firmly. “Listen here, young man. You listen to Miss Penny, starting right this moment. I want to hear that your grades have started picking up immediately. So you start working hard, you hear me? If not, you’ll have your uncle to answer to. Now get to writing.”
Harold stared at Rex a moment, then nodded, looking sheepish, and started writing hard. “Yes, Uncle Rex.”
Miss Penny turned and stared at Rex. Rex grinned, looking sheepish himself. “My sister’s son, Marie. I apologize for my earlier behavior. Shall I wait in the hall?”
Miss Penny sniffed down the tears and smiled. “No, that’s all right. Have a seat, Mr. Dartmoor. We shall be done in a moment.” Turning back to Harold, she stood and touched his shoulder. “I shall expect better work from you in the future, Harold. You might actually find that you enjoy learning, once you put your mind to it. After all, knowledge is power.”