Augusta was beginning to feel that life at boarding school was not so exciting as she had been led to believe. In vain her form-mates pointed out such incidents as the burglar and the handcuffs, and informed her that just to have her in a class ought to be exciting enough for anyone. But to Augusta these were merely everyday occurrences and nothing out of the ordinary at all.
“What we really want is a murder, or a spy, or an invasion – or something like that,” she explained wistfully.
“Well, there is a War on,” pointed out Mollie. “Surely that’s exciting enough even for you.”
“Yes, but we don’t get much out of it. I mean, we have rationing, and the gardens, and air-raids sometimes, but all that’s practically normal now. I can hardly remember a time when there wasn’t a War.”
“This School has had enough of the War, if you ask me,” It was Kathie’s voice that contributed this point. “What about the time Bill and Mrs. Maynard and that crew had to run for it from the Nazis? Or when Corney and her lot nearly got squashed by a German plane? Or when they got bombed crossing the Channel?”
“Yes, I know all that,” For these stories were common currency in the School. “But none of them have happened to me. Or any of us, for that matter.”
“Oh, well, I dare say something’ll turn up,” soothed Kathie.
“Mm,” Augusta’s voice was absent, and her friends looked at one another in alarm. “You know, I shouldn’t be surprised if someone at this very School wasn’t a spy.”
“Don’t be idiotic, Gus,” said Mollie scornfully. “Who would it be? The Abbess? Bill?” Augusta looked thoughtful.
“You never know,” she said mysteriously. “It’s generally the people that look as though they aren’t spies that are them, if you know what I mean.”
“Well of course. They’re hardly going to promenade around wearing a hat that says “I’m a spy – catch me if you can!” are they?” Mollie rolled her eyes.
“No, I mean it’s always people like the Vicar, or the doctor, not sinister people. I’ve read books about these things. In The Mystery of the Canary Feather it was a little old lady with flowers that was the murderer. She killed people by treading on their feet and there was a spike in her shoe that had poison in it and went right through into their foot. And in The Hedge that Rustled it was the Town Mayor and the police only realised it was him because he’d killed everyone else in the Town including the man who knew who the murderer was only he turned out not to be dead and…”
“But Gus, you can’t really think that Bill or the Abbess are spies! Why, Bill had to clear out of Austria because she went against Hitler.”
“Ah, but what if that was just a blind, to put people off, and really she was spying for him all the time?”
“But…” Mollie’s mind was boggling like a jelly. She attempted to bring a sense of reality to the situation. “She can’t really be a spy, Gus. Or the Abbess.”
“Of course she’s not the Abbess,” said Augusta impatiently. “She couldn’t be. They’re together too often.”
“No, I meant the Abbess couldn’t be a spy,” Mollie said in exasperation.
“Why didn’t you say so, then? Anyway, I don’t see why she couldn’t.”
“Because…because…” Mollie racked her brains and was unable to come up with a satisfactory answer.
“Because of things like the Peace League,” pointed out Kathie, coming to her aid.
“I told you. It’s all a blind. Naturally if they organise something like that people would never believe they might be spies. It’s a cover, don’t you see?” By this time Augusta had succeeded in convincing herself that the random idea planted in her mind was in fact the truth. And her eloquence and method of reasoning had almost convinced Kathie and Mollie, despite the faint glimmering of ordinary sense that whispered to them that Augusta’s theories were pie in the sky.
“Gosh!” added Augusta in awed tones. “And we’re the only ones who know.” Her friends stared at her, aware that something, somewhere, must be wrong, but unable to put their fingers on the weak spot. Kathie made a final, desperate effort.
“All right, Gus,” she challenged. “We’ll believe you – if you can prove it!”
Augusta tilted her chin.
“I will, too,” she accepted the challenge proudly.