“Madge! Madge!” Joey Bettany came careering into her sister’s study, heedless of all instructions to the contrary. Dark eyes alight with excitement, she gestured wildly out of the window. “There’s a fearful row, and Grizel and Ju are going at it like nothing on earth! Bette even threw a jugful of lemonade over them, and they didn’t stop! Oh!” This last in surprise. “Hullo, Dr Jem!”
“Hullo, Joey,” the doctor replied politely. “How are you?”
“Very well, thank you,” said Joey, reminded of her manners. “I hope you are too. Though your tie’s all crooked.”
“Joey!” gasped Madge, but Jem Russell just smiled.
“So it is.”
“You prob’ly need a wife,” said Joey, solemnly, and Jem nodded, casting a mischievous glance at Madge.
“You’re absolutely right.”
Madge Bettany moved to the front of the desk, an eyebrow raised. “Well, thank you, Dr Russell. I had better go and see to the girls. We’ll have this meeting another time.”
“We most certainly will,” murmured Jem Russell, as Madge herded Joey before. He straightened his tie and climbed out of the window, making for the mountain path, whistling jauntily. Next time they’d lock that damned door.
“Miss Dene… Rosalie…” Rosalie Dene looked up from the filing cabinet, a little surprised to be addressed in this manner.
“Colonel Black! I didn’t realise you were visiting today. I’ll just let Miss Annersley know.” She turned towards the Headmistress’s office, only for Colonel Black to move between her and the door.
“No!” Seeing Rosalie’s astonishment, he looked a little self-conscious. “That is, I didn’t come to see Miss Annersley.”
“Oh,” said Rosalie, mystified. “All right. Er – who did you come to see?”
Surprised she may have been before, but that was nothing to what she felt as Colonel Black bounded forward and clutched one slim hand in his own.
“Miss Dene – Rosalie – nothing can express the feelings I have for you!”
“Rosalie!” He pressed forward, and Rosalie felt the sharp edge of her desk against her hip as he kissed her. She gave a shove, and sought refuge behind her desk, giving in to the somewhat childish urge to wipe the back of her hand across her mouth. The Colonel looked crestfallen.
“No, Colonel Black,” said Rosalie, as definitely as she could manage. “I don’t…” She broke off as the door opened, and Miss Annersley’s head appeared, brown hair gleaming smoothly in the morning light.
“I thought I heard… Colonel Black! It is you! I didn’t realise you were coming.”
“No, I… that is… well, really… I must go and visit the vicar.” He gave a sort of sketchy bow, and made a rapid exit. Rosalie collapsed in her chair, giggling wildly, and Hilda Annersley left the sanctity of her office, crossed the room, and perched on her secretary’s desk. She raised an eyebrow, and smiled.
“I do hope, my dear Rosalie, that you’re going to tell me all about it!”
“I’m supposed to be having tea with the Prees!”
“Damn the Prees!”
“I think… I… Oh! Oh, Jack!”
“Oh you beast! This is my favourite blouse!”
“Damn your blouse!”
“Oh, Jack, I love you so.”
“And I… love you… too…”
“Oh! Ohhhh… Wait!”
“Shh! Did you hear that?”
“Hear what? Jo, are you…”
“Thank you, Elizabeth. Now, please take these to Miss Wilson, and tell her I’ve another set when she needs them.”
“Shall I take the others, Matron?”
“Yes, here you are, Anne. Are you sure that’s not too heavy?”
“It’s fine, Matron.”
“All right. Off you go, girls, and don’t dawdle!”
“Josephine Maynard! What on earth are you doing loitering in my san? Jack too!”
“Hullo, Matey. I just popped up to see you about Mary Shand. You said you wanted more of the linctus? Jo’s here to see the prefects, isn’t that right, darling?”
“Yes. The prefects. And speaking of, I’m horribly late. I’ll see you later, Matey? And Jack, darling, don’t be late home tonight?”
“Oh, I won’t be late.”
“And that’s when the floor gave way,” finished off Ailie Russell with flourish, pointing to the remains of Bathroom 4.
Nancy Wilmot closed the door firmly, hoping it would give way. “We’ll leave it for Gaudenz in the morning,” she said decisively. “Now, everyone back to bed, please!”
The collected occupants of Primrose and Lily dormitories regretfully made their way back to their cubicles, disappointed that the night’s excitement was over.
“Funny that Willy should have been in Ferry’s room,” said Janice Chester, her tone curious. “I wonder what they were doing?”
“Prob’ly marking, or something dull like that,” said Judy Willoughby blithely. “I say, d’you suppose they’re going to ask about what happened to the bather tomorrow?”
“Nothing more certain,” said Ailie glumly. Her expression brightened. “Still, jolly well worth it!” And with that, the others were in agreement.
The library was quiet. The school was engaged in a flurry of packing, and Jane Carew had discovered an overdue library book at the back of her bureau. Matey had given her permission to return it, and she had duly made her way to the school library, leaving her fine on the librarian’s desk. She was just finishing the note to accompany it when the door opened, and Jack Lambert sauntered in, a pile of magazines under one arm.
“Len told me to bring these up from the Middles Common Room,” she said, seeing Jane by the issue desk.
“Have you finished packing?” asked Jane, scribbling her name at the foot of the note. Jack nodded, slinging the magazines onto one of the tables, and appropriating a chair.
“All done and dusted. Carmela sent me off to make myself useful. What about you?”
Jane waved the book. “An Elsie Oxenham I borrowed yonks ago. Fearfully late, I’m afraid.”
“Eve will have words to say!”
“Oh, darling! She’ll have forgotten it by next term!” She pulled out a chair in turn, and sat opposite Jack. “Seems a dreadfully long time away, doesn’t it?”
“Next term?” Jack nodded. “I’ll say! Mind you, summer hols always seem to last forever. Are your parents staying up here?”
“For the beginning at least,” replied Jane, her eyes darkening as she thought of the accident they had had. They were silent for a moment, and then Jane leaned over and caught Jack’s hand. “I say, Jack,” she began, a little awkwardly. “I never said… I mean, how decent you were, darling.”
Jack looked down at Jane’s hand in hers, and squeezed it. “Don’t be an ass,” she said brusquely. “Of course I… well, you know. For you.”
Jack and Jane sat there, holding hands, and for a moment it was as if they could read each other’s minds. But such moments rarely last, and they broke apart, a little uncomfortable.
“Matey will be after me,” said Jane briefly. “I’d better…”
Jack nodded. “I said I’d help Derry clear out the splasheries.”
They both stood, motionless for a moment, and then the door opened again, and Ruey Richardson and Margot Maynard came in, laughing over some joke and struggling with a pile of books, and Jack and Jane made a quick exit, each comforting herself with the knowledge that the next term was only six weeks away.
“Someone will be looking for me.”
“Probably. Head Girl, and all that.”
“Still, it is the last day of school.”
“It didn’t feel… wrong, did it?”
“You know. You are still at school. Technically.”
“You’re such an idiot. It’s not wrong. It’s… nice.”
“Your parents would have a fit.”
“Fifty, more like.”
“Thanks for the reassurance.”
“Hmmm. You’re welcome. I should really go before someone comes looking for me.”
“Wouldn’t they get a surprise!”
“Well, I’d rather it weren’t Matey. Have you seen my stockings?”
“Over here. And your… don’t snatch!”
“Well, you needn’t wave them about like that!”
“Who’d’ve thought: Len Maynard is shy about her knickers after making passionate love to her fiancé in the prefects’ room!”