Nell Wilson was just settling down on the sofa in the pretty staff room, preparing to bury herself in the latest Jeeves novel until Kaffee und Kuchen, when in at the door came a harrassed-looking Hilda Annersley, young David Russell in her arms.
“Your turn, eh?” chuckled Nell, an amused expression on her face.
“Madame is taking the seniors for religion, yes,” replied Hilda sedately, “and so I have David.”
Nell gave another chuckle and picked up her book.
“Lucky old you,” she said sarcastically, opening it at the front page and beginning to read.
Hilda came into the room and put David down on his crawling rug in front of the sofa, a surprisingly calculating expression on her face.
“What are you doing now?” she enquired innocently.
“Nothing,” was the smug response. “I’ve finished my marking, competed all my preparation for the rest of the week and now I’m stealing half an hour with my book before Kaffee.”
“Lucky old you,” Hilda said mildly.
“Lucky old me,” agreed Nell, her concentration on her book.
Hilda looked up from where she was crouching with David. A guilty expression flitted briefly across her face and she glanced down at David, then back up at Nell.
“Nell...I don’t suppose…”
“Hmm?” Nell looked up, then grew wary at the expression on her friend’s face.
“Oh, no,” she said emphatically. “No, Hilda.”
“But you’re free,” begged Hilda, “and I’ve all the middles’ scripture to mark, and the senior essays from last Monday, and I’ve not had a chance to prepare my classes for tomorrow, and I’m on duty tonight and you know how much work I’ll get done in that case!”
“Hilda!” Nell’s voice had a pleading note in it. “It’s my free! I’ve got my new book - I’ve had it a fortnight and no chance to so much as glance at it until today…”
“You can still read it!” Hilda wheedled. “I’m sure David won’t bother you - Madame’s always saying what a placid little boy he is.”
“But he’s a baby!” protested Nell. “What do I know about babies?”
“Oh, they’re quite simple,” said Hilda breezily. “You just have to keep an eye on him - bounce him a bit if he cries…”
“Cries?” Nell looked horrified. “I think you’d better take him, Hilda - I can’t be having with a crying baby. I’ll get it all hopelessly wrong, I know I will...please, don’t do this!”
“I’ll make it up to you,” Hilda offered, retreating rapidly. “You are doing me such a favour, Nell - I can’t thank you enough!”
But Hilda had disappeared and the door was closing behind her.
“Coward!” called Nell, shaking a fist in the direction of the door. Then she sighed and turned, preparing to meet her fate.