Goodbye Malory Towers, Page 2Enid Blyton
Since everyone was very hungry, they obeyed at once, and when Lizzie went to the bathroom to wash her hands, June gave a grimace. ‘Lizzie might have given up her domineering ways, but she’s awfully prim and proper,’ she said. ‘I don’t like her.’
‘Oh, June, do give her a chance!’ said Pam. ‘Why, you’ve only known the girl for two minutes.’
‘That’s long enough,’ said June. ‘She’s the sort of person who makes me want to act all childish, and do stupid things like sticking my tongue out at her, or pulling faces.’
The others laughed, but Alice said rather hesitantly, ‘I do think that Pam is right, though, and we should give Lizzie a chance. After all, you were decent enough to give me one.’
This made the others think, for Alice had first joined Malory Towers in the second form, as the unpopular and unpleasant Josephine Jones, and had ended up being sent away. Two terms ago, she had persuaded Miss Grayling to let her join the school again, and had proved beyond doubt to the others that she had changed her ways for good.
Felicity looked at Alice, who appeared quite different now that she no longer wore glasses. Her confidence had grown too, and she was no longer the nervous, timid girl who had first joined the sixth form. Well, thought Felicity, perhaps Lizzie could change too, and realise that it was possible to take life a little too seriously at times, and there was no harm in having a little fun now and again.
The new mistress
Felicity was most surprised when, as she finished breakfast the following morning, Miss Potts, the stern head of North Tower, came over and told her that Miss Grayling would like to see her. Wondering what the Head wanted, Felicity went along to her room at once, and tapped on the door.
‘Come in,’ came Miss Grayling’s clear voice, and Felicity entered, relieved to see that the Head was smiling.
‘Well, Felicity,’ said the Head, after inviting her to sit down. ‘It is the beginning of your final term at Malory Towers, and I am very pleased indeed with the way that most of you sixth formers have turned out. You are, on the whole, good, kind, responsible young women, who have got the most out of your time at Malory Towers and learned all that it can teach you.’
Felicity knew very well that the Head did not just mean the lessons that could be learned in the classroom, and she flushed with pleasure.
‘But there are always new things to learn,’ Miss Grayling went on. ‘That is why this term I have arranged some special classes for the sixth form, which I hope that you will enjoy, and which I think will be of benefit to you as you prepare to go out into the world.’
Of course, Felicity was very excited and curious indeed. What could the Head be talking about?
‘A new teacher will be starting at Malory Towers this term,’ said Miss Grayling. ‘And she will be teaching you sixth formers such things as deportment, etiquette and so on.’
‘The kind of things we would learn at a finishing school, Miss Grayling?’ said Felicity, sounding most surprised, for she certainly hadn’t expected this.
‘That is right,’ said the Head. ‘I realise that some members of your form may not take to the idea as readily as others, but I would like them to attend the classes anyway, for it is always good to be open to new ideas and different ways of doing things.’
‘Of course, Miss Grayling,’ said Felicity rather faintly, for she wasn’t too sure whether she was keen on the idea of these new classes herself!
‘There is one other thing that you should know,’ said Miss Grayling. ‘The name of your teacher is Miss Lacey. Miss Gwendoline Lacey.’
For a moment Felicity thought that she hadn’t heard the Head correctly, then she gave a little gasp.
‘Gwendoline! How odd. You see, Miss Grayling, Darrell and I were talking about her only yesterday, and wondering what had become of her.’
‘Well, now your curiosity has been satisfied,’ said the Head with a smile. ‘I realise that Gwendoline – or Miss Lacey, as you must call her now – was not the most popular of girls when she was a pupil here, but I trust that you and the others will put that behind you and treat her with the same respect you would show any other mistress. She is certainly very well-qualified to teach you in matters of etiquette and so on, for she went to a very fine finishing school herself.’
Felicity frowned at this, saying, ‘I thought that Gwen – Miss Lacey – was unable to go to finishing school after her father was taken ill.’
‘Fortunately her uncle stepped in and paid for Miss Lacey to take a course,’ said the Head. ‘Though she had to go to a school in England, and not one abroad, as she had hoped.’
‘I see,’ said Felicity, wondering how the others would take this news. Some of them – notably June and the tomboyish Julie – would be less than thrilled, she felt, both at the idea of having to attend the classes, and at being taught by Gwen, of all people!
But it seemed that Miss Grayling had finished with the subject, for she had now begun talking about Lizzie Mannering.
‘I daresay that you were surprised to find that I had put Lizzie up into the sixth form,’ said the Head.
‘Yes, we were, to be honest,’ said Felicity. ‘I know that she is a very clever girl, but … ’
Her voice tailed off, for she could hardly tell Miss Grayling that she thought her idea had been a strange one!
But the Head seemed to realise her dilemma, for she smiled, and said, ‘Normally I would not consider such a thing at this late stage in a pupil’s education, but I considered it would be good for Lizzie, and good for the others in the fifth form.’
Miss Grayling paused for a moment, considering her words, then she went on, ‘Lizzie has many good qualities, but she was not popular with the others in the fifth form because of her strictness and very serious nature. Succeeding at her studies means everything to Lizzie, and it is stopping her from growing into a well-rounded person. Also, I feel that she lacks tolerance and understanding at times. Because of this, she has not been entirely successful as head of the form, which is a shame, because I feel that she has the makings of a very worthwhile person. Perhaps she could even be a future Head Girl of Malory Towers, but only if she learns those things that she needs to learn. That, Felicity, is why I have put her into the sixth form.’
‘You think that we may be able to teach her these things, Miss Grayling?’ said Felicity, looking most surprised.
‘I hope so,’ said the Head. ‘It would have been more difficult for her to learn them in the fifth form, where the girls have already formed an unfavourable opinion of her. But among new people, who are a little older and wiser than she is, and whose opinion she might value more than that of the fifth formers, I feel that she might do better. Then, when the rest of the fifth form join her next term, they will have had a break from her, and, hopefully, they will see changes in her.’
‘Well, we will certainly do our best, Miss Grayling,’ said Felicity.
‘I know that I can rely on you,’ said the Head. ‘It might help if you, or one of the others, can encourage Lizzie to open up to you a little. You see, Felicity, I know a little about her home life, and I know that things haven’t been easy for her. Of course, it would be quite wrong of me to say any more, but if Lizzie chooses to tell you herself, that is quite a different matter.’
Felicity was deep in thought as she made her way to the class-room, for Miss Grayling’s words had brought to mind a little incident that had occurred earlier that morning.
The sixth form had been making their way to the dining-room, when they were overtaken by three giggling first formers – Daffy Hope, her friend Katie and a new girl. Daffy whispered something to the new girl that made her squeal with laughter, and Felicity, walking next to Lizzie, felt the girl stiffen beside her. Then Lizzie called out sharply, ‘Edith, come here at once!’
The little first former turned, her face a picture of dismay as she walked over to Lizzie, and the sixth formers watched in astonishment as Lizzie took the girl aside and began to scold
her roundly. None of them could hear what she was saying, but it was obvious from Lizzie’s expression, and her tone, that she was very angry indeed, and when the first former went off to join her new friends, it was with a very subdued air.
‘I say, you were a bit hard on that new kid, weren’t you, Lizzie?’ said Lucy. ‘All the poor thing did was laugh!’
‘Lizzie doesn’t much care for the sound of laughter,’ said June with a touch of malice. ‘Do you, Lizzie?’
‘That’s enough, June,’ said Felicity, seeing Lizzie turn red. ‘All the same, Lizzie, Lucy is quite right. If you come down too hard on the youngsters over petty little things they will soon grow to resent you.’
‘Yes, but you see, Edith isn’t just any first former, as far as I am concerned,’ said Lizzie a little stiffly. ‘She is my sister, and I intend to see that she doesn’t waste her time here at Malory Towers playing the fool.’
‘Poor Edith!’ said June, raising her brows. ‘She has my sympathy, for she’s not going to have much of a time of it here with you watching her every move.’
Most of the others felt the same, and Susan said, ‘But she didn’t do anything wrong, Lizzie. All of the youngsters get a bit over-excited on the first day of term, and even the mistresses make allowances for them, so I think that we should too.’
‘Besides, your sister has to learn to stand on her own two feet and make her own mistakes,’ said Pam.
‘And she won’t thank you for it if you keep ticking her off in front of her friends,’ put in Nora. ‘Take my word for it.’
‘I don’t mean to be hard on her,’ said Lizzie, looking rather hounded. ‘But I promised that I would look out for her, and I don’t want to see her getting into bad company. Daffy Hope … ’
Felicity frowned at this, for her family had been friends with the Hopes for a number of years, and she said firmly, ‘Daffy is a good kid at heart. She can be a bit naughty at times, and is fond of jokes and tricks, but there is no harm in her. Anyway, there is no time to discuss it any further now, or we shall be late for breakfast, and I am sure that you don’t want to set a bad example to your young sister, Lizzie.’
Felicity had glanced across at the first-form table as she ate her breakfast. She could clearly see the resemblance between Edith and Lizzie now, for the first former had the same thick, dark hair and bright blue eyes as her sister. She noticed too that the girl’s blazer was a little too large for her, and the collar was beginning to fray slightly, while the skirt she wore had obviously been shortened to fit her. Were they Lizzie’s hand-me-downs, Felicity wondered? Lizzie hadn’t started at Malory Towers until the third form, which would explain why her old uniform was too big to fit her first-form sister.
It was clear that Edith was fast becoming friends with Daffy and Katie, for the three chattered away together over breakfast. But, Felicity noticed, Edith often looked across at her sister, a wary expression on her face, and if Lizzie was watching her, she soon fell silent.
Now, Felicity wondered if Edith had something to do with the difficult home life that Miss Grayling had hinted at, and she knew that she would have to tread very carefully indeed if she was to gain Lizzie’s confidence.
Felicity was so lost in thought that, coming round a corner, she almost collided with one of the school maids.
‘Oops, sorry, Daisy!’ said Felicity. ‘I was in a world of my own just then.’
‘Oh, you did give me a start, Miss Felicity,’ said Daisy, putting a hand to her heart.
Felicity hoped that the maid would not keep her talking too long, for Daisy was a great chatterbox and loved nothing more than a good gossip. Today, though, she seemed to be in a rush and hurried off without saying any more.
As she went on her way, Felicity greeted Miss Potts, who was leading a group of new girls from North Tower down the corridor, and she guessed that the mistress was taking them to see Miss Grayling. Edith Mannering was among them, looking rather nervous, and Felicity gave her a smile, which she returned shyly.
For a moment, Felicity felt wistful, wishing that she was one of the new girls, just starting out at Malory Towers, instead of finishing off. Then she remembered Darrell’s words, and gave herself a shake. She mustn’t waste a minute on being sad, or wishing for things that couldn’t be. She had a whole term to fill with good memories for the future.
‘Sorry I’m late, Miss Oakes,’ said Felicity to the sixth-form mistress as she slipped into the classroom. ‘Miss Grayling called me to her study.’
‘Yes, Susan told me,’ said Miss Oakes. ‘We are just making out the time-table, Felicity, if you would like to copy it down from the blackboard.’
Felicity got out a pen and sheet of paper, and set to work. The first day of term was always nice, for there were no proper lessons. Instead, books were given out, and time-tables and lists of classroom duties were drawn up.
The sixth form seemed to have quite a lot of free periods, and Felicity guessed that some of them would be taken up by the Finishing School classes that Miss Grayling had discussed with her. Heavens, she couldn’t wait to see how the others took the news when she told them at break-time.
As the sixth form were busily making out their timetables, a taxi pulled up outside the main entrance of the school, and a young woman got out. She was well-dressed, though in rather a fussy way, a floaty scarf trailing from her neck and a huge brooch adorning her dress. As for the big, flower-trimmed hat she wore, it was really more suited to a garden party than a girls’ school.
This seemed to occur to the young woman, for she hesitated outside the door and removed it, a rather apprehensive look in her eyes as she smoothed down her fluffy golden hair and picked up her suitcase.
Miss Gwendoline Mary Lacey had returned to Malory Towers.
It was a gloriously sunny morning, and, at break-time, the sixth formers went outside and sat on the lawn, where Felicity broke the news to them about the Finishing School classes. As she had expected, reactions were mixed.
‘Oh, how super!’
‘What a waste of time! Who needs to learn stuff like that?’
‘I think it will be jolly good fun!’
‘Well, I don’t. I can think of a dozen things I would rather be doing.’
‘I find it quite laughable that we are supposed to learn anything from Gwendoline, of all people!’ said June scornfully.
Felicity looked sharply at June, and said pointedly, ‘Miss Grayling expects us to treat Miss Lacey with the respect that she deserves.’
‘And that is exactly how I shall treat her,’ retorted June. ‘With the respect that she deserves.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said Amy with a frown. ‘Who is this Gwendoline Lacey?’
‘Oh, of course, she was before your time,’ said Susan. ‘A few of you others won’t have had the pleasure of meeting her, either.’
‘Gwen was in the same form as my cousin, Alicia, and Felicity’s sister, Darrell,’ said June. ‘And she is a sly, spiteful snob.’
‘She was,’ Felicity corrected her, with a stern look. ‘She may have changed completely now, for she did go through a terrible time when her father was ill.’
‘Perhaps,’ said June, not sounding very convinced. ‘But it sounds like she still got her way and went to finishing school, as she had always wanted. Surely, if she had been so concerned about her father, she would have stayed at home and helped her mother to care for him.’
‘I quite liked the idea of Finishing School classes,’ said Nora. ‘Until I learned that Gwendoline was going to be taking them. I remember her making me learn a poem once, when she was in the fifth form, because she thought I had been pulling faces at her.’
‘Nora, you had been pulling faces at her,’ laughed Susan, much amused.
‘Well, yes,’ said Nora. ‘But she could have made allowances for my youthful high spirits!’
‘Gwen never made allowances for anything, once she took a dislike to someone,’ said June.
‘She punished me several times for the most trivial misdemeanours, but the truth of the matter was that she was using me to get back at Alicia. The two of them never got on, you know. Alicia was always making digs at Gwen, but Gwen was too afraid of my cousin’s sharp tongue to retaliate.’
‘I remember Gwendoline,’ said Alice. ‘But she may have changed, you know. It is possible for unlikeable characters to become likeable.’
‘Well, you’ve certainly proved that,’ said June, clapping the girl on the shoulder. ‘But, as far as Gwen is concerned, I will believe it when I see it.’
‘She sounds awful,’ said Freddie, who hadn’t known Gwendoline. ‘But, at the same time, I’m dying to meet her just to satisfy my curiosity.’
‘Yes, it will be interesting to see how she has turned out, and if she has changed at all,’ said Pam. ‘I wonder when she will arrive?’
None of the girls realised that Gwendoline was already at Malory Towers, for she had gone straight to Miss Grayling’s study, where she had had a long talk with the Head.
‘Well, Gwendoline,’ Miss Grayling had said. ‘I am pleased to welcome you back to Malory Towers as a member of staff.’
‘Thank you, Miss Grayling,’ Gwendoline had answered politely. ‘I am very pleased to be here, and very grateful for the opportunity you have given me.’
Miss Grayling had looked at her hard, thinking that, outwardly, Gwen had not changed a great deal since her days as a pupil at the school. She was a little slimmer, and the long, golden hair, of which she had been so proud, had been cut into a more grown-up style, but apart from that she looked like the same old Gwendoline.
Had she changed inwardly, though, wondered the Head. That was what really mattered.
As their talk continued, it became apparent that Gwendoline still had the same airs and graces that everyone had disliked in her so much as a pupil. But the shrewd and wise Miss Grayling saw through them, and realised that, beneath them, was a worried and nervous young woman, striving to make her own way in the world. If only Gwendoline would stop putting on an act, how much easier she would find it! Perhaps, in time, she would come to realise that the girls would respond to her better if she dropped all her posing and behaved in a more natural way, as the other mistresses did. Gwendoline had come to Malory Towers to teach, but how marvellous it would be if she learned something as well.