The exercise was to take a passage from a favourite novel and write the next part. I chose Decline and Fall, written in 1928.

Decline and Fall: by Evelyn Waugh 1928

‘Sent down for indecent behaviour, eh?’ said Mr Levy, of Church and Gargoyle, scholastic agents. ‘Well, I don’t think we’ll say anything about that. In fact, officially, mind, you haven’t told me. We call that sort of thing “Education discontinued for personal reasons”, you understand.’ He picked up the telephone. ‘Mr Samson, have we any “education discontinued” posts, male, on hand? … Right! … Bring it up, will you? I think,’ he added, turning again to Paul, ‘we have just the thing for you.’

A young man brought in a slip of paper. ‘What about that?’ Paul read it: Private and Confidential Notice of Vacancy. Augustus Fagan, Esquire, Ph.D., Llanabba Castle, N. Wales, requires immediately junior assistant master to teach Classics and English to University Standard with subsidiary Mathematics, German and French. Experience essential; first-class games essential.

STATUS OF SCHOOL: School. SALARY OFFERED: £120 resident post. Reply promptly but carefully to Dr Fagan (‘Esq., Ph.D.’, on envelope), enclosing copies of testimonials and photograph, if considered advisable, mentioning that you have heard of the vacancy through us. ‘Might have been made for you,’ said Mr Levy.

‘But I don’t know a word of German, I’ve had no experience, I’ve got no testimonials, and I can’t play cricket,’ said Paul.

Paul woke with a start, could it have been a dream? It had all seemed so easy especially as Levy had fixed the interview. Llanabba had looked just like how he imagined, a gothic Welsh monstrosity coved with a damp creeper. Several of the lower windows appeared to have broken panes and locks, and though it was February, they were open and were swinging violently on what hinges remained on the frames.

The wet wind from the Anglesey coast thudded onto the exposed stone of the walls, and water seemed to dribble down from what he hoped was a water-tight roof that was covered with black and shiny slate.

An elderly and broken man had shown him to a top room, though he had to make several journeys with his cases, as the fellow disappeared at the invitation to help him. The room was furnished with a bookcase, a bed and washing stand. He looked for something to read as he had missed supper and only found several old and well-thumbed German dictionaries, two bibles and a copy of Welch Stockholder Annual Report for 1919.

From his jacket pocket he pulled out a hipflask and alone, and lonely started to drink, watching as the darkened clouds chased nesting rooks to the high trees opposite to the castle.

He pulled the blankets up over his head, trying to keep warm by breathing into the weave.

But it was no good; he just had to get up. Swinging his feet onto the floor, his toes explored the cold lino until they found his worn slippers. In the gloom he found the door and shuffled to the corridor, perhaps there was a bathroom. It was completely dark but for a bar of yellow light from under a door at the end of the passageway. He froze and was sure that he heard two voices speaking in German.

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