Cary Crusoe stood outside King’s School Biology Lab scratching his head. Memo from the Principal, he pondered. Now, whatever could that mean?
“What’s up, Cary?” called a loud voice behind him.
“What’s up?” Cary turned right about and faced his tall friend, Zip Carrington.
“What is this?” Zip queried, snatching the note out of his hand and turning it over.
“The Head wants to see me, Zippo,” Cary ejaculated. “Can you beat that?”
“Now, what 'ave you done, my son?” joked Zippo.
Soon Cary was outside the Principal’s office. He stood there for a long moment, his pal, Zippo, still trailing behind him.
“See you later,” Cary said with an air of resignation and turning rapped twice on the large wood-panelled door marked “Principal”.
“Come!” replied Mr. Welles’ rasping voice. Cary pushed the door and entered. Mr. Welles stood at the window, with his hands in the pockets of his old fawn jacket, staring out into the garden. His briar pipe stuck out of one corner of his mouth, a dreary whisp of smoke curling up from its blackened bowl.
“Oh, Crusoe,” he remarked as the door swung into place.
“Sir,” replied Cary respectfully.
“You got my memo?” Mr. Welles sat down behind his desk and offered Cary the only chair in the room. “I’ve wanted to see you, my boy,” he said seriously, “about something important to both you and me.”
Cary did not understand what the Head was getting at. “Have I done anything wrong?” he blurted out.
“Oh, no, no, no!” Mr. Welles laughed setting him at ease. “At least I don’t think so...er...yet”
All the wind seemed to go out of Cary with the sense of relief that swept over him. He was waiting for the next shock when the Head looked up at him and smiled.
“You’re a good boy, Crusoe,” Mr. Welles began again, “The thing is your name has come up before the staff fairly recently, and not only that, somewhat frequently, too”
Cary’s face revealed an expression of doubt...What could the Head be getting at?” And what’s more, your name came up at the last staff meeting. That was Monday night...with regard to the selection of class leaders…” the Head continued.
“Yes, I heard something about class presidents,” Cary said, feeling for the first time that Mr. Welles did not, after all, have anything very terrible in store for him.
“I was a bit disappointed myself at the last selection,” Mr. Welles went on. “And what hurt me more was that a fellow like you got so near to being picked. What’s more it’s the third time you nearly made it...”
“Well, I...I...” Cary stuttered.
Mr. Welles waved aside any remark Cary might have been about to make and went on, “You’re sociable and all that, good at your school work and a credit to the school football team. We need all-rounders like you who are respected by their school mates. But, as I said,” he shook his head slowly, “you missed the selection again.”
“Why?” Cary asked, directing his bold question straight at the Headmaster. “What have I done? Or what have I not done, sir?”
“That’s what I called you in to discuss, Crusoe.” After a slight pause, Mr. Welles leaned forward and spoke confidentially.
“Miss Tilly was never too fond of you. Isn’t that so?”
“Hmm, I guess so,” Cary said with a nod.
“This last time when your name came up in staff, Miss Tilly filed a complaint that...er...I’ll put it this way - you would be a class leader now if it had not been for her complaint.”
“Complaint? What have I done to her?” Cary frowned and looked out the window.
“I hate to bring in religion, Crusoe. But you know you’ve got to be very careful what you say about religion these days. People are so sensitive!”
“Miss Tilly’s my World Religion teacher,” Cary exclaimed, “but I can’t remember saying anything about religion that could have offended her.”
“It’s not that, Crusoe.” Mr. Welles tipped his chair back and looked at a patch on the ceiling where the pale blue paint was beginning to flake off. “You...er...were seen in connection with this campaign held by some evangelists...”
“You were at the crusade, weren’t you?” Mr. Welles asked pointedly.
“I was,” Cary replied blankly, “but surely that couldn’t...”
“No, not really,” Mr. Welles cut in. “You had a perfect right. But Miss Tilly claims you were seen going forward to ‘get saved’...or something.”
“I did go forward, sir.”
“That’s all very well and good,” the Principal hurried on, “but...”
“I saw that I was a sinner and needed to be saved from my sin,” Cary added hastily.
“Yes, but even so...” Mr. Welles was fighting for a chance to conclude what he had to say.
“They told me that Jesus Christ died to save sinners, even me.” Cary stood up as he spoke, “And that’s what I wanted.”
“Sit down, Crusoe, and answer me. Are you saved?’
“That’s what the Bible says, sir,” Cary affirmed bravely. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. And that’s what I did, sir. I called.”
“I see.” Mr. Welles paused a moment to consider. “That’s a hindrance, Crusoe,” he said bluntly. Religion and school don’t mix. I’ve been seriously considering giving you the position of class leader, in spite of Miss Tilly’s complaint, but there is one condition I must make.”
“Yes, sir,” Cary said respectfully. The next moment the blow fell.
“And that is, that you don’t mention anything about 'getting saved’ to anyone, whether it be teacher or pupil. Do you get me?”
Cary nodded. The interview was at an end and he was glad to be able to excuse himself and slip out of the Head’s office to think over what he had just been told.
Class began in another few minutes, and Cary noticed with a quick glance at his watch that some of the boys were still unsettled and several girls stood around in little groups chattering.
Cary felt he could not go into Miss Tilly’s class yet, so he stopped under a large tree, which, though usually surrounded by students was now deserted. “Lord, I need strength from You to face it,” he prayed under his breath. As his fingers rushed over the leaves of his pocket New Testament, his eye caught a verse he had recently underlined in Matthew 10:20. “It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in you!” He closed the Testament again and turned toward the classroom.
Soon, he was settled behind his desk, and just in time as Miss Tilly bustled into the room with her bag over one arm and a big stack of exercise books in the other. One of the boys at the front rose from his desk and assisted her with the books.
“Good morning, class,” Miss Tilly said grimly.
“Good morning, Miss Tilly,” the class replied.
Please be seated and take out your Bibles,” Miss Tilly instructed. “Your last assignment on the Christian Beliefs was poorly done. I want to see the following with books after class today.” She turned her back to the class while she wrote a list of names on the blackboard, then she announced the day’s lesson on the Early Christian Church.
There was rustle of leaves across the room. “Be ready for discussion and questions!” she said crisply.
“There’s a verse mentioned I don’t understand, Miss,” Ronnie Fuller spoke up presently. “Verse 21 of Acts of the Apostles.”
“Well, read it, Fuller,” Miss Tilly encouraged. Cary watched a subtle smile fill her mouth as she looked over the class, and her eyes rested on him. Inside he felt a shrinking as Ronnie Fuller began to read, stumbling over the words…
“And it shall come to pas, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
“Now, I’m glad you brought that up, Fuller,” Miss Tilly said as she turned to the board.
Cary watched the letters ‘SAVED’ form in capitals on the board. His knees shook and he could feel the perspiration pasting his shirt to the back of his desk.
Just then, Zippo raised his hand - he sat a little behind Cary, three seats away. “That reminds me,” he muttered as he got to his feet. “My grandfather was a Baptist preacher, and he couldn’t say ‘s’ very well. So he always said ‘sh’ when he meant 's’ One day, after he had preached, he went right up to a man in the church and asked him, Brother are you shaved?” Of course, the man didn’t quite understand, so he said, ‘Sure, preacher, I shaved this morning before I left home’.
Surprise at Zippo’s story soon turned into raucous laughter.
“Quiet, everyone!,” snapped Miss Tilly. “Mr. Carrington, please. Now, settle down everyone and let us proceed with our lesson!" After a moment, "There are lots of people who go around telling others that they are saved,” Then she looked straight at Cary and said, “Perhaps Mr. Crusoe could tell us some things about this?” She hurried on, an air of sarcasm in her voice. “He has been down to the front of a meeting ‘to be saved,’ I understand.”
Cary felt he could slip to the floor and disappear under his desk. He knew he was in a tight spot and breathed a quick prayer for help. “Well...er,” he began as he stood up. “The Bible says, if we want to go to heaven we must be ‘born again’”
“How can a man be born again when he is old already?” tittered Ronnie Fuller, half turning to the girl behind him.
“Fuller! Let Crusoe go on,” Miss Tilly’s voice was stern.
Cary saw his opportunity and explained as best he could what he had been told by the counselor at the meeting on the night he had made his decision for Christ. Then, he stumbled through John 3: 16 and sat down.
Class time seemed to pass by so quickly that Miss Tilly could do little more than try to settle the murmur of voices and dismiss class.
Cary knew that she would go straight to Mr. Welles and report him. He felt utterly miserable at the prospect of another interview with the Head, but nevertheless glad that he had spoken up in class. But he knew that it would make it easier later on.
Once outside three boys approached him. They wanted to know more how to get saved. It was lunch break, so Cary led them to the large mango tree in the corner of the school grounds and sat down on one of the benches. He did not stop to consider that the tree was in full view of Mr. Welles’ office, but took out his New Testament and opened it at John’s Gospel. Together they went over some of the most important verses. Cary felt so thrilled with the boys’ response and so eager to help them, that he almost missed hearing the 1: 30 bell. It was too late then to start eating his lunch but he couldn’t think of any day in all his years at Kings’ School, when he had spent a happier or more profitable lunch break.