Evans Tries an O’Level by Collin Dexter is one of the most exciting detective short stories ever. Set in England’s Oxford and around, this is the story of James Roderick Evans who breaks out of the prison with great patience and planning. Included in the class 12 English Core syllabus, this sweet story will entertain the readers.
Evans’ Master-Plan – Notes
- 6 months training in German
- A tutor called to teach Evans
- Classes held under great security
- Frisked Evans
- Checked for razors, knives
- Jackson asked Evans to remove the cap
- Set up the voice recorder
- Mc Leery – A parson or priest or monk
- Evans’ friend impersonates McL and added a bit of Scottish accent
- Double clothes
- Double collar
- Frisking the Invg.
- Paper knife seized by Jackson
- Blood in semi-inflated rubber tube
- Excuse of haemorrhoids/piles
- Call from Exam board
- Arrival of CS (Correction Slip)
- Evans gets rid of Stephens
- Excuse – Being closely monitored by Stephens
- Evans gets a blanket
- Excuse – Feeling cold
- Starts Make up
- Evans makes himself up as a parson
- Applies blood all over
- Stephens gets a call:
- Call from “Governor” (Fake call)
- Get the parson out
- Lock Evans’ room
- Exam over
- Stephens leads the parson out
- Locks the door (leaving Evans inside)
- Stephens returns
- Finds another parson inside!
- Gets confused
- Calls the officers
- A total confusion
Chase, arrest & escape
- Detective Carter
- Takes the bleeding parson to get Evans
- Evans (the bleeding parson) misguides Carter
- Reaches Radcliffe Hospital
- Evans (the bleeding parson) requests carter to call ambulance
- Carter leaves Evans on the roadside
- Ambulance team arrives
- No Parson found
- Governor and the CS (Correction Slip)
- Decodes a secret message on the CS
- “Goldenen Lionen > Golden Lion
- “Nuen Grabben > New Grave > Newbury
- Learns that Evans is on the way to Golden Lion Hotel at Newbury
- Drives off to Newbury with inspector Bell
- Governor makes 2 more calls
- Calling the Radcliffe Hospital
- G Calls the ambulance dept
- “Team could not pick up a parson”
- Calling Mary Mags (Rev. McLeery’s residence)
- Gov calls Parson’s residence
- Parson was found tied and gagged
- Calling the Radcliffe Hospital
- Decodes a secret message on the CS
Hotel Golden Lion
- Evans reaches the hotel
- Opens his room
- Finds the Governor on the bed
Back to the Prison
- Evans handcuffed to prison officer
- Governor follows the prison van
- Distance increases
- Evans and his friends (the fake officers) escape
Be ready for a long drive. Have patience and read and move to all the pages one by one.
Evans Tries an O’level – Revealing the Mystery
End of Six-months Preparations
Evans was put in the Oxford Prison at Carfax for his criminal records including the three jail breaks that he had successfully committed. Anyway we do not exactly know what were the charges against him. It is most likely he was the master brain of a gang of robbers or was just a one man robber who was greatly skilled at impersonating other people and thus made an income out of that. Well, he was a kleptomaniac (thief). However, London Police had no other choice than putting him in the most secure Oxford Prison where jail breaks were not at all common. Evans was aware of it, too. Seeing that he was not going to break very easily, Evans made a new plan to escape and it was very complicated and it involved many people at the same time.
In the first week in the jail, Evans requested the Prison Governor to permit him to take German lessons to acquire sort of academic degrees. Suspicious as he always was, the Governor arranged a German tutor for Evans and watched how things proceeds. With a microphone hidden in the study room or in his cell where Evans took classes, the Governor waited to hear if Evans would ask the tutor to help him. It so happened but no one knew how Evans managed to do such a risky thing while the microphone was listening to him. Probably Evans communicated with the tutor through a letter which the latter was asked to read silently. However, the tutor agreed.
- Who was James Roderick Evans? Why was he put in the Oxford Prison?
Evans was a smart young man who had a number of amazing skills to fool anyone and escape any prison. He had a gang of friends who used to make money by imitating other people. Because of his smartness in breaking prisons, Evans was sent to the Oxford prison that was thought to be the most secure prison in England.
- Why was Evans put in the Oxford Prison?
James Roderick Evans was a kleptomaniac. He had a bunch of friends who assisted him in all his activities including jailbreaks. Besides, Evans was a notorious prisoner famed for his repeated jailbreaks. He was known as ‘Break’. Due to his tendency to attempt another jailbreak, he was put in the Oxford Prison at Carfax which was known for its high security.
- Why did Evans decide to learn German?
The Oxford prison’s exterior walls were too high for ordinary prisoners. Apart from this, the officers, especially the Governor and Jackson were really game. The prison vaults were connected to a listening system that recorded every exchange between the visitors and prisoners. When Evans was put behind bars at the Oxford Prison, it was evident to him that he had to resort to a highly intelligent jailbreak strategy to dodge these security systems. In order to find a way out, Evans made a very elaborate plan and taking an O’level examination was the first step.
- Why did the Governor apply for an examination for Evans?
Evans was a prisoner in the Oxford Prison. He had convinced the authorities that he was genuinely interested in learning German and was tutored for a while. When the tutor announced that Evans was prepared for an O’Level exam, the Governor of the prison applied to the Examination Board for his exam.
Governor contacted the examination board and arranged an O’level exam for Evans. O’Level is an ordinary level of examination. The board contacted St. Mary Mags and requested Rev. Stuart McLeery to go to the prison to invigilate the exam.
At the same time, at the prison, officer Jackson and a newly appointed – or specially appointed – officer, Mr. Stephens, were making sure if Evans had any potential weapon to make a jail break during the exam. Evans had put on a bobble-hat and hadn’t shaved. Inside the hat he had hidden his makeup stuff for his escape plan and he delayed shaving for some undisclosed purpose. When Jackson ordered him to remove that hat, Evans requested the kind-heart Mr. Jackson to let him keep it as he considered the cap to be his lucky charm. Well, Jackson was always like that. He was full of sympathy and the hat was full of what Evans needed for transformation!
- Why was Evans particular about keeping his hat on his head during his exam?
Evans wore a bobble hat at the time of his examination. When he was asked to remove that, Evans pleaded to let stay it because he believed it was his lucky charm. In fact he had hidden some of the makeup materials in his hat which was the reason he didn’t want to remove it.
Frisking the Invigilator
- What had happened to the real Reverend Stuart McLeery?
Rev. McLeery was getting ready to go to the prison. It was around 8.30. He was about to leave his residence when two of Evans’ friends came to visit him. Having entered his room, they gagged and tied the parson while one of them dressed himself up as the parson. After half an hour they went out – one of them as Rev. Stuart McLeery.
- Who was McLeery? What is his role in the story?
Rev. Stuart McLeery was a parson at St. Mary Mags, a monastery. He was supposed to invigilate Evan’s examination at the Oxford Prison. He was about to leave his residence for the prison when two of Evans’ friends entered his room and tied and gagged him until Evans had escaped from the prison.
- Why did the Governor think of frisking McLeery?
McLeery was the invigilator of the examination and he was to sit inside Evan’s cell while the latter wrote the exam. The Governor had made sure that Evans had been thoroughly frisked and there was nothing to fear about that. But when he thought about the possibility of McLeery carrying a paper-knife or that sort, he feared Evans would make use of that and escape by holding the parson his hostage.
- Why did McLeery’s expressions change when he was frisked?
While frisking McLeery, the prison officers found out a semi-inflated rubber tube in his bag. When he was asked of this McLeery’s amiable appearance suddenly changed and he turned shy and embarrassed for having made to admit that he was suffering from piles. In fact this was only an excuse to stop the authorities from asking further questions and to allow him to carry the rubber tube that had some blood inside for the escape drama.
- What had ‘McLeery’ brought with him to the prison to help Evans’ escape?
Evans’ friend dressed up like McLeery had brought some very useful articles for Evans’ escape. He had worn an extra clerical collar and a clerical front. In his bag he had carried a semi inflated rubber tube filled with blood. He had also carried a paper scissors even though it was frisked by the prison authorities.
- What instructions did the invigilator give to Evans at the start of the examination?
The invigilator asked Evans if he had a watch with him to see the time. When Evans told that he had a watch, the invigilator informed him that he would tell him the time to start the exam and inform him when there was five minutes to wind up. He then made him know that he could take any number of answer sheets if he needed. The invigilator instructed Evans to write his index number which was 313 in top right-hand corner. He was also instructed to write his center number, 271, in the box just below that.
- What was the intention behind the call from the Examinations Board?
It was one of Evans’ friends who made the call from the Examination Board. This call was primarily meant for confirming the beginning time of the exam in order to calculate the end of the exam. The equally important reason behind this call was to misguide the Governor into Hotel Golden Lion to arrest Evans from there and thereby to make the escape altogether safer.
Stephens out and Blanket On
At the start of the exam, Evans had to get rid of officer Stephens and get a covering for himself. These he required because he was not going to write any German O’level Exam. He was only going to make himself as the parson who had come to invigilate him! Height for height, beard for beard, dress for dress and accent for accent to create confusion in the prison once the exam was over. By complaining it was extremely cold inside and he was not able to concentrate in his exams because of Stephens, Evans managed to get a blanket for him and get Stephens out of the cell.
- How did Evans manage to get Stephens out of his cell?
It was very necessary for Evans to get officer Stephens stay out of the cell. To get him out, Evans complained to the invigilator that he found it very difficult to write his exam with officer Stephens monitoring him very closely. Listening to this conversation over the microphone on his desk, the Governor instructed officer Jackson to get Stephen out of the cell. In the Governor’s opinion, the jail authorities were overdoing Evans’ security arrangements.
- Why did the Examination Board call the Governor?
The Assistant Secretary with special responsibilities for modern languages called the Governor at 9.40 am with multiple objectives. Although it was a call to pass the correction slip which was not properly attached to the question paper, the prime aim was to confuse the authorities. The second point of this call was to boost the Governor’s confidence in himself so that he and the rest of the officers would feel less stressed. The third intention of this call was to get the accurate time of the beginning of the examination.
End of the Exam
Exam began in full swing. The Invigilator remained reading his magazine, Stephens went up and down the corridor, the Governor himself listened to the loud speaker that caught conversations from Evans’ cell and Jackson kept a watch of all the rest. Keeping a pen between his lips, Evans observed Stephen’s position in the corridor with the help of the shining, bulbous head of the pen. The closer Stephens came, the dimmer was the brightness of the pen-head.
Well, there remains just five more minutes for the examination to call off and Evans and his friend, the invigilator, did all that was part of the plan. Evans put on the extra pair of clerical dress – cassock, front, collar, etc. – that his friend had brought in and glued a fake beard. Just five minutes and then Stephens heard Jackson shouting from the other end of the corridor, informing that the Governor was on the telephone line, wanting to talk to him. Stephens was more than excited.
He was feeling proud of himself because the Governor wanted to talk to him! Stephens attended the call – well, it was not the Governor who talked to him nor was it Jackson who yelled from the other end! Excitement brings wise men to unforgivable errors. As per the call, Stephens carried out the Governor’s orders – took the invigilator from the cell and led him out of the prison and once again returned to Evans’ cell to make sure he was really there. Looking through the peep hole, Stephens saw the most unbelievable sight in his life – the invigilator, not Evans, inside the cell!
- How did Stephens feel when he was asked to accompany McLeery out of the prison?
Stephens was a new officer at the Oxford Prison and was naturally apprehensive about his duties. He was already glad that he was in charge of the invigilator and the examinee. When he was asked by the Governor to accompany the invigilator out of the prison, Stephens felt greatly flattered and proud of himself.
Underline this – Evans was still inside and his friend, the dupe invigilator was out. You can just imagine him laughing out in great amusement. Half is done and the next half began. In utter disbelief, Stephens called for Jackson and in no time the entire prison was roused. Officers rushed to Evans’ cell and saw the tortured parson, the poor invigilator, all bleeding and weak. If you remember the rubber tube that the invigilator had brought, you can now guess how Evans was bleeding!
Well, everyone reached the one and only conclusion – Evans escaped after beating the parson and fooling Stephens. Governor had, by this time, called in detective Carter to find the escaped prisoner and in no time the famous detective arrived and offered to help the Governor. He got a vague idea about the state of the affairs and was ready to run out to get the escaped prisoner when the “bleeding” invigilator made an unusual offer to help the police and the detective – he said he knew where Evans could be found! That made sense. If a parson (Priest), especially one beaten and dying, offered to help the police, there is some sense. Governor allowed the parson (Evans) accompany the detective and together they went out in the latter’s car.
- How did Evans escape from Detective Carter?
Disguised as the invigilator, hit by the escaped Evans, Evans misguided detective Carter in the pretext of helping the officer to find the escaped Evans. When they reached Radcliffe Hospital, Evans pretended to be most critical and told the detective to admit him in the hospital. Carted wanted to drive the wounded invigilator into the hospital but Evans advised him to call the ambulance and drop him on the roadside to be picked by the ambulance so that the detective could continue his chase after Evans the escaped.
- When did the Governor realize that the invigilator was fake?
The Governor had initially assumed that it was Evans who had run out of the prison after hitting the invigilator. But later, when he made call to the Radcliffe Hospital where detective Carter had admitted the invigilator, he was informed that the hospital had not admitted the invigilator. More confused, the Governor searched for the parson at Mary Mags , his residence and confirmed that the parson who had to come as the invigilator had been tied and gagged in his room and the one came as the invigilator was Evan’s accomplice.
All Roads Lead to New-bury
Back in the prison, the Governor abused Jackson and Stephens as much until he was a little less dejected. Having dispatched them, he examined Evans’ cell and got hold of a very important evidence to find Evans. It was the correction slip that Evans, so foolishly, left behind and it had a hidden message written on its back! Evans is heading to Newbury! So the Governor contacted the detective for updates and was told that he had spotted Evans twice. Governor could not believe that. He believed the correction slip and decided to reach Golden Lion Hotel, Newbury, before Evans got there. In the meanwhile, the Governor was informed that the parson was admitted at Radcliff hospital under emergency. So far so good but when the Governor contacted the ambulance section, he was told that the ambulance could not locate a bleeding parson as was told by detective carter.
With no clues about the disappearance of the parson, the Governor telephoned Mary Mags (where the parsons live) and on breaking Rev. Stuart Mcleery’s room, they found out that the real parson had never got out! The truth mostly out, the Governor knew what was to be done. With a skilled assistant, he drove to Golden Lion Hotel. He was excited. Evans – I am coming for you!
- Evans was free to run away from Radcliffe Hospital when he got out of detective Carter’s vehicle. Why, then, did he head to Hotel Golden Lion knowing that the Governor would be awaiting his arrival? OR Why did Evans want the Governor arrest him at Hotel Golden Lion?
Evans’ plan had been one very intelligently crafted. He wanted to make sure that his plan had to amaze everyone and the very smart Governor also had to be overtaken. To do this he wanted the Governor arrest him with his ‘own smartness’ and feel ‘elated, proud and over confident and consequently less careful about keeping Evans under high security.
Arrest and Final Escape
Evans reached the Hotel, made his special orders at the reception and got into his room. He locked the door and moved to the bed to rest and sleep but… Sitting in the bed was the Governor, laughing out, beaming with pride. Visibly defeated, Evans sat down on the floor and this sign of defeat thrilled the Governor. You can imagine him giving out orders to the police and traffic department to stop searching for Evans.
Then the Governor walked down to the prison vehicles parked outside and Evans followed, handcuffed. On the way the Governor asked Evans to explain how he managed to get the blood and all the other makeup and Evans had his humble answers, still accepting his defeat. Evans was handcuffed with a prison officer and was taken to the prison van. (Remember a call from the magistrate’s court for a prison van?)
The van moved and the Governor followed it with an ebbing heart, imagining his consequent honor and awards in getting the smartest prisoner in the world. This way Evans escaped! The prison officers in the van were Evans’ friends, disguised. An over confident Governor had never anticipated this. He will soon learn that it was part of Evans’ plan that he left the correction slip in his cell and walked into the Hotel room clearly knowing that the Governor was waiting for him.
- The Governor’s pride in his little knowledge in German was of great help for Evans to escape. Explain.
The Governor had acquired a little bit of German earlier and was proud of that. On seeing the correction sheet and faintly recognizing the hidden message that would help him to trace the escaped Evans, he became over enthusiastic and decided to track the prisoner with the assistance of another officer. Later when he trapped Evans so ‘smartly,’ the Governor forgot all caution and went high in the sky of his pride and that gave Evans a great opportunity to escape.
- Do you think that the Governor was really intelligent? Support your answer with instances.
The Governor was a very intelligent officer but his overconfidence was his weak point. The instances of his intelligence can be seen at various places of the story. He didn’t believe that Evans was genuinely interested in learning German when he noticed that Evans didn’t understand the basic German expression, “Guten Gluck.” He was doubtful when the call came from the Examination Board and made a return call to confirm if the call really came from the Board. It was his intelligence that thought of frisking the invigilator and found the rubber tube. It was he who discovered the secret message regarding the assault on the invigilator superimposed at the back of the question paper. Soon he found out that the real Mc Leery had never come to the prison and that it was Evans who had escaped from the prison as the injured invigilator. The Governor deserves praises for tracing Evan to Hotel Golden Lion at Chipping Norton and arresting him.
- How far was Stephens helpful for Evans’ escape?
Stephens was a newly recruited officer in the prison. He was very particular about showing his efficiency in front of the higher authorities and was especially glad that he was in charge of Evans’ examination which was a risky job indeed. Evans complained of Stephens’ breathing and got him naturally out of the cell. Once out of the cell, Stephens kept peeping into the cell but soon found it childish. To show that he was very confident and efficient, he left the cell door to come after short intervals. The short intervals soon became longer and very longer giving time for Evans to dress himself up inside the cell. Stephens was taken to the highest joy when he received the fake call from the Governor to take the invigilator out of the prison. He in his pride took the invigilator out of the prison and made way for Evans’ escape in a wonderful way.
- How did the blood help Evans make his escape easier?
Evans had been in possession of a pretty good quantity of blood that his impersonated friend had brought in a semi-inflated rubber tube. In fact it was this blood that helped Evans to make himself up as a parson just before his escape. With the soaking blood applied on his heavy make up and the artificial beard, Evans was beyond the Governor’s piercing eyes. In addition to the ghastly look of a bleeding, dying parson, Evans was also able to get the sympathy of the onlookers like the Governor and the other officers like Mr. Jackson. It was certainly because there is no point of suspecting a dying parson who is willing to pledge his own life that Evans’ (the bleeding parson’s) offer to guide detective Carter was accepted without any objection. For Evans, getting out of the Prison as a parson was the first step to his escape so the blood helped him in this attempt.
Evans was ‘visibly shaken’ when he saw the Governor in his room in the hotel. Why was he shaken?
It was part of the escape plan that the Governor had to come to the Golden Lion Hotel to arrest Evans from there and take him to the prison. The purpose was to make the Governor believe that he was really intelligent and efficient and thereby let his confidence go loose. It was because of this that Evans pretended that he was really caught.
- Why is the Governor called ‘good for a giggle Governor?’
The Governor was in a way intelligent and smart. Though a little late, he was successful in tracing Evans in the Hotel Golden Lion and in arresting him. But little did he know that it was Evans who wanted the Governor to arrest him. Evans raised the Governor’s confidence level sky high and let him fall from such a height of pride. When he caught Evans, the Governor thought that he was the most intelligent prison governor in the world and drove to the prison dreaming of the praises and ranks he would be given for his efficiency as a Governor. But in the prison he would know how he was made fool by Evans and the world would only giggle at him.
Can you imagine what had happened when the Governor reached the prison?
While driving to the prison the Governor thought that he was the most efficient and intelligent prison governor in the world. He was very confident, overwhelmed with gratification and was therefore least cautious. But there was the worst news awaiting him in the prison that Evans and his friends had escaped by fooling and disgracing him. He would also realize that he too was one among the idiots like Stephens and Jackson.
Exam Pack Questions
- What was the initial apprehensions about Evans’ escape from the prison?
- What happened to the real Rev. Stuart McLeery? (3 marks)
- Why did Evans want one of his friends impersonate Rev. Stuart McLeery? (3 marks)
- How did Evans’ friends impersonate Rev. Stuart McLeery? (3 marks)