Jemima made an effort to bring her sobs under control and Len came and sat at the next desk, turning to face the girl and searching inwardly for the question which would allow her difficult pupil to unburden herself.
“I was glad to meet your parents last week” she said, conversationally, at last, “and your twins are very sweet.”
"They- they’re not” sobbed the girl.
“Not sweet?” queried Len, thoroughly bewildered.
“Not my parents” sobbed the girl.
The bell rang for the end of break and Len made a hasty decision. “You certainly aren’t in any fit state for class” she said. “Come with me, Jemima.” She led the girl to the San where they were met by Matron.
“Matron, Jemima is upset and we are talking it over” explained the young mistress, “but I have a class now, the Third – “
Matron smiled at the mistress “I imagine that the Third will not be sorry for a little extra time to work at their preparation, and I have some letters to write” she said, kindly.
“Oh, thank you Matron” said Len, thankfully.
Left alone in the San, Len wrapped Jemima in a blanket and brought her a glass of milk. “Drink this Jemima” she said firmly.
Once the girl had swallowed the milk and brought her sobs under control Len sat down beside her once again. “Tell me, Jemima” she said. The memory of unburdening herself to Madge Russell the day before gave certainty to her voice. “It will help you to talk it through, whatever is troubling you.”
Jemima looked at Len again and her reserves gave way in the face of this grave kindness. “It was the day before I came back to school at the end of the summer holiday. Mo-mother asked me to get my medical certificate for Matron from her desk. I was not sure which drawer she had said and I looked in the wrong drawer and – and I am adopted. And I didn’t say anything just that I had rather a headache – and that’s why my parents – why they had sent me off to school. And they were so glad when the twins came and they don’t want me now. And I’ve been all wrong with myself ever since I knew and I’ll have to go back at Christmas and they won’t want me they’ll just want the twins there – and I don’t even know if my own parents are – are dead.”
What a pitiful story the mixed up girl had sobbed out. Len put a comforting arm around her pupil. “Oh Jemima, what a muddle!” she said warmly. “I cannot answer all these things for you but I can tell you right now that your parents love you – I could see that immediately I saw you all together.”
Len thought hard for a few moments. “You haven’t spoken of this before?” she asked.
“No – I don’t want anyone to know – please Miss Maynard” said the girl, anxiously.
“I think that you will have to tell your – your parents” said Len. “Otherwise you cannot understand what has happened, because only they can tell you. I would like to tell Miss Alton, and ask her to ‘phone your parents and ask them to come and see you.”
Jemima, relieved at sobbing out the thoughts which had troubled her since the beginning of term, paused and then nodded at the suggestion. Suddenly, she felt that even confirmation of her worst fears would be better than the doubts and confusion the unfortunate piece of paper had plunged her into.
“Now you are very tired and I am going to leave you to have a nap” said Len. She wrapped the girl in a blanket and brought her some more milk. “Drink that and then have a sleep, and I will come and see you again.”
Leaving San, Miss Maynard walked back to the Third where she was greeted cheerfully by Matron who readily agreed to remain with the class and waved aside the mistress’s thanks. Len left the form room and walked to the study, where she found her aunt and headmistress deep in conversation.
“I am sorry to disturb you, Miss Alton” said Len, “perhaps I may speak to you later?”
“Speak to me now, Len, if Madame will forgive us” said the Head pleasantly.
Len told Jemima’s sad story briefly, and Miss Alton readily agreed to telephone Dr and Mrs Smallthorne. “It really is something we cannot help the poor child with, not without more information. I do wish she had come to us sooner. Excuse me please, Madge, I will go and telephone now and hope that Mrs Smallthorne can come here this afternoon or tomorrow – they do not live very far away.”