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Winter Term at Malory Towers, Page 2

Enid Blyton

  The fourth formers burst out laughing, for that was exactly what the big girl did look like! Susan, however, was a little put out. It simply wasn’t done for a new girl to be so bossy, and take charge of the young ones like that—even if she was a top former!

  Just then, someone called out, ‘Hallo, you kids! No loitering in the hall now, or I shall dish out a punishment.’

  The girls turned to see a tall, graceful girl standing there, a wide smile on her face.

  ‘Esme!’ they cried. ‘How marvellous to see you!’

  Lucy, who was Esme’s cousin, punched the girl gently on the shoulder, and said, ‘I’m surprised that you even bother with us small fry now that you’re a fifth former.’

  ‘It’s only because there’s no one else around,’ said Esme with a perfectly straight face. ‘Of course, if I should happen to pass you when I’m with any of my form I shall simply walk past with my nose in the air.’

  Then she laughed, and the others laughed with her, for they knew that Esme—who had been in their form last term—would never go all high-and-mighty on them, no matter what.

  When the girls arrived at Matron’s room, the big, fair-haired girl was there, still fussing over the first formers. Matron herself was looking rather irritated, but her stern face relaxed into a smile when she saw the fourth formers. ‘All got your health certificates?’ she said, in her brisk tone. ‘Good. Now, I want no illnesses, and no broken bones this term. Is that clear?’

  ‘Yes, Matron,’ chorused the girls, all except Olive, who hung back and looked at Matron suspiciously. The others knew that Matron was only joking, and there was no one they would rather have look after them if they fell ill. But, to Olive, she seemed a most unsympathetic person. Matron noticed the girl watching her, and, looking at the list in her hand, said with a smile, ‘You must be Olive Witherspoon. And I have another new girl here for the fourth form, too. Sylvia, come and meet the rest of your form.’

  The girls followed Matron’s gaze and realised, with surprise, that she was talking to the rather bossy girl who had borne the first formers off. Heavens, was she going to be in the fourth form too?


  The first evening

  The girl turned at once, and strode across to the others, a broad smile on her round face. ‘How lovely to meet you all!’ she boomed, in her hearty voice. ‘I’m Sylvia Chalmers, and I’m so happy to be at Malory Towers. I was at St Hilda’s until the end of last term, you know, but our Head was taken ill and it had to be closed down. So sad! It was a simply super school, but I’m sure that Malory Towers will be every bit as nice.’

  Sylvia paused to take a breath, and Matron seized the chance to say, ‘Well, Sylvia, the girls will show you and Olive to your dormitory, then you can all unpack.’

  ‘Oh, I know where the dormitory is, Matron,’ said Sylvia. ‘I arrived early this morning, you know. And my things are already unpacked. I was just going to show the youngsters to their dormitory, because I always like to help out if I can.’ She beamed round at the others, who were all staring at her open-mouthed. Heavens, what a chatterbox!

  Bonnie put a hand to her forehead, and murmured to Amy, ‘I’m beginning to get a headache.’

  ‘Oh, poor you!’ said Sylvia, whose sharp ears had caught this. ‘My mother suffers dreadfully from headaches, so I know just what you should do! You need to take—’

  But Bonnie never found out what she needed to take, for Matron, quite affronted, cut in, to say crisply, ‘Thank you, Sylvia, but I am Matron of North Tower, and if Bonnie has a headache she can come to me for a remedy.’

  Then she reached up and took a large bottle of green medicine down from one of her shelves, shaking it in Bonnie’s direction. ‘A dose of this will cure your headache, Bonnie,’ she said.

  But, miraculously, Bonnie found that her headache had suddenly disappeared!

  ‘I thought it might,’ said Matron drily, putting the bottle back on her shelf. ‘Now, off you go, all of you, for the first day of term is a very busy one for me, and you are all in my way.’

  The fourth formers went out, but Sylvia lingered, saying, ‘Matron, I was hoping that I might show the first formers where their dormitory is, and help them to settle in.’

  Matron, who was growing a little tired of Sylvia and her pushy manner, said firmly, ‘The first formers can learn to find their own way around, Sylvia. They certainly don’t need you chivvying them round. Now do, please, go and join the others.’

  ‘Well, what a know-it-all!’ said Nora, as the rest of the fourth form made their way along the corridor.

  ‘Isn’t she just?’ said Susan. ‘And she acts as if she has been at Malory Towers for years, not just a few hours.’

  ‘I can see that she’s going to be jolly trying,’ said Felicity. ‘I wonder how she knows her way around so well?’

  ‘You can ask her,’ said June. ‘Here she comes!’

  And, when Sylvia caught up with them, Felicity did ask her.

  ‘Oh, whenever I go anywhere new, I always make a point of exploring, so that I can find my way around,’ explained Sylvia in her loud voice. ‘I do so hate having to ask where I’m supposed to be going all the time, don’t you?’

  Felicity opened her mouth to answer, but Sylvia swept on, ‘It can be quite uncomfortable being the new girl, among so many others who have been here for a long time, especially when you have been used to being somebody at your old school.’

  ‘Somebody?‘ repeated Julie, with rather a dazed expression.

  ‘Oh yes, I was head-girl in several forms at my old school,’ said Sylvia airily. ‘I’m afraid I do have rather a tendency to rule the roost.’

  ‘Really?’ said June in a smooth little voice. ‘I would never have guessed.’

  The others giggled, and before Sylvia could hold forth again, Susan said, ‘Well, let’s get along to our dormitory, or we shan’t have time to see anything before tea.’ Then, in a lower tone, she murmured to Felicity, ‘My word, if Sylvia tries to rule the roost in the fourth form she’ll be in for a shock!’

  Indeed she would, thought Felicity, smiling to herself. There were several very strong characters in the fourth, and they would have no hesitation in putting Sylvia in her place if she became too bossy!

  The fourth-form dormitory was a very pleasant room, large and airy, with cream-painted walls. Each bed had a brightly coloured bedspread on it, and a locker beside it, so that the girls had somewhere to keep their personal belongings.

  Sylvia, of course, had already unpacked and arranged several things on top of her locker, and she hovered round the others now, saying brightly, ‘If anyone wants a hand with their unpacking, they only have to say the word.’

  ‘If they can get one in edgeways,’ muttered June darkly, making the others laugh.

  Olive, in complete contrast to Sylvia, had remained very much in the background and, as the fourth formers entered their dormitory, Felicity turned to the girl.

  ‘Settling in all right?’ she asked, with a smile.

  Olive merely nodded, and Felicity, determined to draw her out, tried again, asking, ‘Which school did you go to before you came here?’

  ‘Chartley Manor,’ answered Olive.

  ‘What made you leave and come to Malory Towers?’ asked Susan, coming over to help Felicity in her efforts.

  And, quite suddenly, Olive’s face lost its sullen, uninterested expression, becoming angry and red, as she hissed at Susan, ‘Mind your own business!’

  Then she turned away, flung her night case on to the nearest bed and began furiously pulling things out.

  ‘Well!’ said Susan, annoyed and rather shaken. ‘What on earth brought that outburst on? Of all the nerve! Olive can remain in her shell now, for all I care! I certainly won’t bother trying to make conversation with her again.’

  Felicity, angry on her friend’s behalf, glared at Olive. But the girl kept her head down as she concentrated on her unpacking, and didn’t even notice.

  ‘I’ve a jolly good mi
nd to go and tell her what I think of her!’ said Felicity, her cheeks glowing red.

  But Susan said, ‘Don’t let’s bother about her, Felicity. I’m certainly not going to let her spoil our first day back at school. Besides, at least I managed to get four words out of her, instead of just one!’

  Felicity laughed at this, but she still felt sore with the new girl, sitting as far away from her as possible at the tea table later.

  The girls rubbed their hands together happily as they went into the dining-room, Nora sniffing the air appreciatively. ‘Sausages and mash, with gravy, unless I’m much mistaken,’ she said. ‘And treacle sponge for pudding. Yummy!’

  Mam’zelle Dupont, the plump little French mistress, was already at the head of the fourth-form table when the girls seated themselves, and she smiled round, delighted to see everyone again, crying, ‘Bonjour, mes enfants! ’

  The fourth formers were very fond of Mam’zelle, and smiled back. But they didn’t have a chance to return her greeting, for, once again, Sylvia pushed herself forward, saying brightly, ‘Bonjour, Mam’zelle! I’m Sylvia Chalmers, and we met earlier.’

  ‘Ah yes,’ began Mam’zelle. ‘I remember. Miss Potts—’

  ‘Miss Potts introduced us,’ interrupted Sylvia. ‘And you and I had a lovely, long chat about France, for I spent my summer holiday there, and I was telling you all about it.’

  Mam’zelle’s smile began to slide a little, and she murmured, ‘Oui—it was a very, very long chat indeed.’

  ‘I simply must show you the photographs I took, Mam’zelle,’ Sylvia chattered on. Then she looked round the table, and said, ‘I’m sure that you would all find them most interesting, girls. You see, we stayed in the most beautiful chateau, and…’

  Then, to Sylvia’s astonishment, the fourth formers all began to talk to one another, very loudly and very pointedly. Even Mam’zelle turned away and began to talk rapidly to Nora, taking care not to meet Sylvia’s eye again.

  As for Sylvia herself, she began to eat her sausages and mashed potato, feeling puzzled and a little hurt. She wanted so badly to fit in here, and really had gone out of her way to be friendly. Poor Sylvia! She simply couldn’t see that she was trying just a little too hard.

  It was a strange meal, thought Felicity. Normally the fourth formers would have pointed out all the mistresses to the new girls, telling them which ones to beware of, and which ones were easy to get round, or good to play tricks on. But Olive didn’t seem in the slightest bit interested, while Sylvia seemed to know all there was to know already!

  Just then, June glanced towards the first-form table, and noticed that there was a new mistress sitting there, beside Miss Potts, the head of North Tower.

  ‘I wonder who that is, with Miss Potts?’ she said, and the others turned to look. The mistress looked very young, and had tightly curled blonde hair, which looked very striking with her dark brows and brown eyes.

  ‘Do you know who she is, Sylvia?’ asked June.

  ‘Of course not,’ said Sylvia, rather defensively. ‘Why should I?’

  ‘Well, you seem to know everything else,’ said June.

  ‘She looks awfully young,’ said Nora. ‘I wonder what she is going to teach?’

  ‘Ah, I know who this new mistress must be!’ cried Mam’zelle, who had been listening, and surveying the new teacher with great interest. ‘Perhaps you do not know, mes filles, but our good Miss Hibbert was taken ill during the holidays, and has been ordered to stay at home and rest.’

  The fourth formers were sorry to hear this, for Miss Hibbert, who taught English and Drama, was an excellent teacher, with a knack of making her lessons very interesting indeed.

  ‘That’s bad news!’ said Felicity, looking very grave. ‘I do hope that there is nothing seriously wrong with Miss Hibbert, Mam’zelle?’

  ‘Non, but she must not return to Malory Towers until she has fully recovered,’ said the French mistress. ‘That is why Miss Grayling has engaged someone else to take her place this term. Her name, I think, is Miss Tallant.’

  ‘She’s very pretty,’ said Bonnie, surveying the mistress critically.

  ‘In a rather common sort of way,’ said Amy with a sniff. ‘I bet her hair is dyed.’

  ‘She looks as if she might be good fun,’ said Lucy. ‘The younger mistresses often are.’

  ‘I think she looks rather hard,’ said June to Freddie, in a low voice that could not be overheard by Mam’zelle. ‘Mark my words, our Miss Tallant is going to be trouble, and not fun at all!’

  Olive, meanwhile, sat silently and ate very little, merely pushing the food around her plate. She wasn’t interested in the new mistress. She didn’t like Malory Towers. And she didn’t like the girls! Not that nosy Susan, nor snobbish Amy, and certainly not the bossy Sylvia. As for Nora and Bonnie, they were both the kind of girls that Olive disliked most, with their big eyes, pretty faces and sweet, innocent expressions. Olive knew all about girls like them. She knew how they used their sweetness and prettiness to get their own way, and to make themselves the centre of attention. While plainer girls, like Olive herself, had to find other ways to make themselves noticed, or be ignored altogether.

  Certainly the new girl had not made any impression on Mam’zelle, who had barely noticed that she was there. Felicity suddenly realised, with a pang of guilt, that no one had bothered to introduce Olive to the French mistress. Really, she thought, it was quite Olive’s own fault if she was left out of things, for she had made no effort at all to respond to the others’ attempts at making friends. All the same, someone ought to make the introduction, and as Felicity had been head of the form last year, she decided that it was up to her.

  ‘Mam’zelle,’ she said. ‘I don’t think that you’ve met our other new girl, Olive Witherspoon.’

  ‘Ah, you are so quiet, ma petite, that I did not notice you!’ said Mam’zelle, smiling at the girl. ‘Well, these fourth formers will make you welcome, for they are good girls, and soon you will be just like them.’

  Just then, Bonnie let out a squeal that made everyone jump, and leapt up from her chair, wailing, ‘Oh no, I’ve spilled my tea all over my skirt!’

  ‘You are scalded, ma chère!’ cried Mam’zelle dramatically, getting to her feet. ‘I shall take you to Matron at once!’

  ‘I’m not scalded, Mam’zelle, for the tea was almost cold,’ said Bonnie, dabbing rather ineffectually at the damp patch on her skirt with a handkerchief. ‘It was just such a shock, that’s all. Thank heavens I have another skirt in my trunk. Amy, be a dear and pour me another cup of tea, would you?’

  How typical, thought Olive, watching the little by-play with a sour expression. Bonnie was quite obviously one of Mam’zelle’s favourites, and the girl simply couldn’t bear to see the French mistress paying attention to someone else. So she had purposely spilled her tea in her lap and then made a big—and quite unnecessary—fuss about it. Olive’s lip curled scornfully and, seeing this, Felicity nudged Susan, murmuring, ‘Just look at Olive’s face! It’s enough to turn the milk sour!’

  In fact, Olive was being extremely unjust, for Bonnie had been deep in conversation with Amy, and hadn’t even realised that Mam’zelle was speaking to Olive. Nor had she spilled the tea on purpose, for it really had been an accident.

  But the new girl had taken a completely irrational dislike to both Bonnie and Nora, and it came to the fore again when the girls were relaxing in the common-room that evening.

  ‘I must say, this is a jolly nice common-room,’ said Sylvia, whose hurt silence at the tea-table had lasted all of five minutes. She liked the sound of her own voice far too much to be quiet for any longer! ‘Very cosy! I’m sure we shall have some wonderful times in here, all chattering away together!’

  ‘What Sylvia means is that she will chatter, while we are forced to listen to her,’ muttered Amy under her breath, scowling at the new girl. ‘I think it’s dreadfully vulgar, the way that she pushes herself to the fore all the time!’

  ‘Of course, when
I was head of the form at St Hilda’s, we used to have all kinds of fun and games in the common-room,’ the new girl went on. ‘I organised most of them myself, for if there is one thing I pride myself on it’s being a good organiser. And, if I do say so myself, I’m jolly good at thinking up games to play. I could show you some of them, if you like, and…’

  ‘Thanks. If we ever feel that we need someone to organise us, or tell us what to do in our free time, we’ll let you know,’ said June, with heavy sarcasm.

  But Sylvia was too thick-skinned to recognise sarcasm, and she continued to talk and talk and talk! At last it became too much for Nora, who jumped up and put a gramophone record on.

  ‘Good show, Nora!’ called out Freddie.

  Then, to the amusement of the fourth formers, Nora began to do a little tap dance in the middle of the floor.

  ‘You’re full of beans tonight!’ said Pam, in surprise. ‘Usually it’s all you can do to keep your eyes open after the journey back to Malory Towers.’

  ‘Ah yes, but I have been staying at my aunt’s, and she doesn’t live many miles from here, so it was only a short drive back,’ explained Nora, stopping in mid-dance. ‘So I feel quite wide awake, for once!’

  ‘You’re not a bad dancer, Nora,’ said Sylvia—rather patronisingly, the others thought. In fact, Nora, who was naturally graceful, was a very good dancer and had been taking lessons in the holidays. She opened her mouth to tell the others this, but Sylvia got in first, saying, ‘I simply love dancing, and, if I do say so myself, I have quite a talent for it.’

  ‘My gosh, can you imagine it?’ muttered Lucy, under her breath. ‘It would be like watching a baby elephant!’

  This was a little unkind, but Julie couldn’t help laughing, and Sylvia, quite oblivious, went on, ‘I coached some of the youngsters in dancing, for their part in the school concert last year, and it all went swimmingly. The parents thought that it was marvellous, and I do think that I have a knack for teaching people things, even if—’