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Author's Chapter Notes:
I hope you don't mind, but I'm repeating four chapters you actually read a year and a half ago, but we are now starting a new week and they will be a reminder of what has gone before.

We are three weeks into the spring term. Ellie had been bullied by Meg for two of those weeks. Meg then stole her precious photos, just two days after she had goaded Ellie into cutting part of her finger off. Meg has revealed to Hilda a very unhappy home life and is now off to the convent in Norfolk to try and re-group. Hilda herself came unstuck at the concert on Saturday night. Is life about to ease up for each of them a little?

Matey woke Meg at six o’clock on Monday morning. She left her to get washed and dressed, telling her to come along to the dispensary when she was ready. Meg did as she was bid but cast a haunted look round the dark and silent dormitory on her way out. Suddenly, she heard soft rustling beside her. The next moment, Jeanne peered through her curtains.

“Bonne chance, Meg,” she whispered, “and have a lovely time. We’ll miss you.”

A sob escaped Meg. She clasped hands with the French girl. For the first time in several years, she knew what it was to have a friend wish her well. “I’ll miss you, too, and Ellie. Tell her thank you from me.”

She ran from the room and rubbed away the tears before she reached Matey’s dispensary. She sat down at the little table there and made a brave attempt to eat the scrambled eggs Matey herself had cooked. The latter saw the fear and kept up a ceaseless flow of aimless chatter. Meg’s hands were trembling as she put on her coat and picked up her hat, gloves and scarf, so Matey reached out and took a cold hand in her warn one.

“Meg, I promise you there is absolutely no need for this abject terror.” Meg’s eyes searched the faded blue eyes. “I know Mother Abbess. She’s a tall and rather overwhelming lady when you first meet her, but she has one of the warmest, most loving hearts in the world – just like Miss Annersley – and she will shower you with the same sort of kindness. She will expect courage and honesty from you, but you’ve shown you have those, and much else besides. So be strong, dear, and you will find your heart made glad.”

Meg was so astounded by these gentle words from the usually brisk little woman that a small smile escaped her. “I’ll try,” she whispered, gripping Matey’s hand. “Thank you for trying to help. I don’t think I’ll ever be scared of you again.”

Matey laughed. “Oh, I shouldn’t be too sure of that, Meg! Feeling better now? Then come along! Mr Stuart will be waiting. Can you manage that case?”

The case was one Hilda had lent to Meg, because the usual overnight case the girls brought at the beginning of term would have been too small to hold a week’s worth of clothes and other necessities plus some study books. Over her shoulder hung a small rucksack containing purse, book, camera and a few biscuits for the journey.

Matey’s eyebrows rose when they reached the entrance hall and found Ian and Hilda there, chatting quietly. Matey had hoped her Headmistress would still be asleep, but laughed at herself. Of course Hilda would want to wish Meg well on this unusual journey of hers, but Matey didn’t like the heavy eyes, the wan aspect, the sadness loitering behind the smile Hilda bestowed on Meg. That sedative hadn’t done her much good! Maybe she could get her to take another that evening, now the barriers had been breached.

Ian wished Meg ‘Good morning’ and took her case out to the car, knowing Hilda would want a few last-minute words with the girl. Hilda saw Meg’s sudden fear at the nearness of her departure and drew the girl close, rucksack and all.

“You look as though you’re going to your execution, child. Remember what I said last night – they will look after you like a princess and probably spoil you to death. All they ask is that you go with a willing heart. I want you to promise to have a wonderful time and come back a much happier girl.”

The glow in Hilda’s eyes seemed to imbue the girl with a little courage. “I promise!”

“Good girl! Have you got your notebook? I don’t think you’ll find it too hard finding things to be thankful for while you’re there.” Hilda smoothed Meg’s hair gently, then pulled a small parcel from her jacket pocket and placed it in the girl’s hand. “Put this in your bag and open it when you’re on the plane. It might take your mind off things.”

A surprised Meg looked down at the flat package, which felt like a book, but her surprise turned to wonder when Hilda put her hand in her pocket once more and pulled out two crisp white five pound notes, which she tucked into Meg’s hand alongside the parcel. “It occurred to me you wouldn’t have any English money and there might be little things you need to purchase.”

“But… there’s ten pounds here!” gasped Meg, who had never been given so much money in her whole life.

Hilda took her by the shoulders. “And I want you to spend it. Buy yourself something pretty, something you would really like to have. Yes, I mean it! Spoil yourself! You could use some of it to buy flowers or a little gift for Mother Abbess and the sisters, and perhaps a postcard to send to your parents, but don’t spend it all on other people. Don’t worry about running out of money, either. Mother Abbess has my permission to give you some more, so you mustn’t be too frightened to ask.”

A sob escaped Meg. She tried to speak but words failed her and Hilda’s heart was touched. She drew her close again, trying to infuse a little comfort and courage into the girl, for she was so desperately alone.

“Meg, every day is a new beginning. Yesterday is over, you’ve repented of the wrong you’ve done – now leave it there, in the past. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and my love and prayers go with you as you travel into it.”

Ian returned from the car, and he and Matey watched as Meg shook her head, sobbed again and pressed closer to her Headmistress, clinging as though she would never let go. Hilda murmured in her ear. Meg nodded, then pulled away reluctantly.

“Thank you for everything,” she said in a ragged voice, before turning blindly to Ian. He took her arm, smiled at Hilda and led Meg out into the early morning darkness. Hilda and Matey watched in silence as the two settled themselves in the car and it crunched away over the hard packed snow.

“You’re spoiling that girl,” Matey said blandly. “Is it a good idea?”

“I don’t think spoiling her will damage her at all, Gwynneth. It’s her parents’ harshness and neglect which have done the damage. It strikes me even her Nanny didn’t spoil her much, for fear of repercussions from the parents. The only spoiling she did was to love Meg, so we do the same. Her legacy must not be lost:

"‘A kind word to one in trouble is often like a switch in a railroad track – an inch between wreck and smooth sailing.’” (H W Beecher)

“And you’re expecting smooth sailing from now on? Then you’re expecting miracles.”

Hilda shivered and closed the door. “Miracles don’t come along very often in this life, Gwynneth. Meg hates her parents. Even worse, she hates herself. It will take God’s vast love to heal that great woundedness, and she doesn’t trust Him yet. Why should she, with no loving father to serve as His model? She won’t suddenly become sweet and charming, I’m afraid, or start to show saint-like qualities. At times she'll revert to what she was before, and that will hurt her. But I’m hopeful. She’s such a brave girl, and a very astute one.”

“And she loves you,” Matey stated matter-of-factly. “I saw that just now. If any miracle were to take place, it will be because of you.”

“No, Gwynneth, it will be because of grace, God’s grace, which is poured out on all of us, saint and sinner alike, totally unearned and in great abundance. Everything, in the end, is grace, nothing but grace…” With a troubled sigh Hilda turned away from the door. “I’d better go and make my bed, before I get into trouble from our sainted Matron.” Matey snorted. “I’ll sort out Ellie when the bell goes, so be prepared to find us both at Frühstück.”

She looked hard at Matey, as though expecting dispute, but Matey simply held up her hands in surrender. “I’ve given up bullying for the moment, especially since you saw sense last night and did the unthinkable, after all your argufying. But I'll be making sure you take that promised rest after Mittagessen – so you be prepared, as well.”

Hilda nodded, conceding the point, and smiled at her friend, but the latter noticed the smile did not reach Hilda’s eyes. “I’ve taken on board all Jack’s diktats, Gwynneth, and I'll try to behave, but I’ve been out of school since Thursday. I think they need to see their Headmistress today before she becomes a figment of their imagination.”

“Don’t think you’ve heard the last of me.”

“Now why would I think that, my friend?” Hilda retorted as she walked away down the corridor. “You and Mother are two of a kind, overbearing and determined to have the last word.”

“Unfortunately for us, you always give as good as you get.”

“Really? You could have fooled me..."

Her voice faded away as she turned the corner and Matey’s martial glare faded, to be replaced by a soft smile. Hilda was up and running again. All they had to do now was make sure she stayed that way.

So they made their way back to their respective quarters, each thinking of the girl they had sent off into the unknown…..


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