|The following morning|
In view of Lucy supposedly feeling ill, Miss Annersley had installed her in a bedroom near her own and instructed her to keep the door locked during the night. A drink of water was supplied so that Lucy would have no need to leave the bedroom. In the morning, Miss Annersley collected her and conducted her to the bathroom and escorted her back again when she had had her tepid bath.
‘Lock the door after me, Lucy,’ Miss Annersley instructed. ‘And don’t unlock it again until I come to collect you.’
Breakfast was taken again at a separate table and after bed-making and Prayers, they returned to the study where a further pile of school work awaited Lucy. She started tackling Maths problems with ease whilst Miss Annersley got on with her own work. When they stopped at break time, Miss Annersley voiced her worries to Lucy.
‘I can’t justify keeping you in solitary confinement any longer than the end of today. I hope your Aunt Jane and Inspector Haddock can solve the problem by then but if not, then I think I should send you to stay with Miss Marple.’
‘Expel me?’ Lucy exclaimed.
‘No, of course not. You haven’t actually done anything wrong, silly child! We could make you a day girl for a while.’
‘How am I going to find anything out if I’m not here?’ Lucy asked.
Miss Annersley sighed. ‘I think it’s too dangerous for you to try, Lucy. Don’t forget there are already three people dead.’
‘There isn’t any reason for me to be suspected,’ Lucy argued.
‘Why don’t we see what your Aunt Jane thinks?’ Miss Annersley suggested. ‘I’ll allow you back into school this afternoon and you can mix with the other girls. I’ll tell the staff that you are very penitent and so I’ve shortened the period of solitary confinement. I’ll ask Miss Marple to come in and see me. But if she says it’s too dangerous for you then you’re going home with her.’
Lucy pouted but knew it would be pointless to persist. When Miss Annersley had that note in her voice, she was not prepared to be swayed.
At lunch, Lucy was allowed back at her normal form table.
‘What on earth went on?’ Nita asked her. ‘I’ve never known the Abbess supervise solitary confinement before.’
‘It was because what I did was so bad,’ Lucy said.
‘What could you have done that was as bad as all that?’ Peggy Bettany asked.
‘I’m not allowed to say,’ Lucy said virtuously. ‘Miss Annersley said that it was so bad it wasn’t to be discussed.’
Agog with curiosity, the girls tried all sorts of different questions and tricks to get the truth from Lucy but she maintained her silence. ‘If I tell, I’ll be expelled,’ she said finally, which put an end to the questions.
Miss Marple arrived and was closeted with Miss Annersley for some time, then Lucy was sent for.
‘You can’t be in trouble again,’ Peggy said. ‘You’ve only just come out of solitary confinement and you’ve been with us all the time.’
‘Miss Annersley said Aunt Jane was being sent for to discuss the situation,’ Lucy explained as she checked her hair was tidy and her uniform trig and trim. ‘I expect she want to see me to find out if I have really seen the error of my ways. She’ll be reporting back to Daddy and he’s terribly strict.’
‘Will you be in trouble when you go home at the end of term?’ Nita asked.
‘If he allows me to go home. He may make me stay here.’
‘But it’ll be Christmas!’ Nita exclaimed. ‘Surely he couldn’t be so cruel!’
Lucy felt very guilty at maligning her beloved Daddy. Although he was a fairly strict parent, he would never be cruel. So it was with a serious face she greeted Aunt Jane in the study. Miss Annersley had been called to deal with another matter, so Miss Marple was on her own.
‘My dear child, there’s no need to look so tragic. You did extremely well to realise there was something amiss with the laundry list and to find out about the outhouses.’
Lucy explained why she had been looking glum and Miss Marple hastened to reassure her. ‘Your father wouldn’t mind, even though you are telling little fibs. Your safety is the most important thing.’
‘What do you think about my staying here, Aunt Jane?’
‘I think you could stay in school,’ Miss Marple said. ‘I understand Miss Annersley’s concerns but I believe you are unlikely to be suspected. However if you are worried at all, you are to find Miss Annersley straight away.’
‘Yes, Aunt Jane.’
‘Now run along back to school. I hope you might find some time to concentrate on your lessons now!’
Lucy returned to the common room where the girls were still speculating as to what Lucy had done.
‘How did you get on with your aunt?’ Judy Rose asked.
‘Quite well,’ Lucy said. ‘Miss Annersley explained that I was really sorry and Aunt Jane says she will speak to Daddy about it and persuade him not to be too severe.’
Lucy half-expected a thunderbolt to land on her from Heaven for her wickedness. The other girls did not appear to notice anything amiss and just then the bell rang and they headed upstairs to change. Lucy was glad to be back in the normal routine. She had enjoyed Miss Annersley’s company but putting on an act the whole time was very wearing. For the moment, she resolved to forget about all the other stuff and concentrate on being at school.
Unfortunately for Lucy’s resolution, Fate decided otherwise and the following morning on her way to the bathroom for her tepid bath, she spotted Matey and Peggy Bettany in the corridor. There was something about the way they had their heads together which alerted Lucy’s suspicions. This wasn’t Matey telling-off a girl for not wearing slippers, leaving her drawer in a mess or reading in bed. It was collusion, pure and simple.
Lucy continued her headlong dash for the bathroom as if she had noticed nothing, turned off the tap which had been left on for her and crept back to the door. By keeping it a tiny amount ajar, she could hear what was being said just round the corner from her.
‘……..need more ration cards for them,’ Matey was saying. ‘They didn’t send sufficient.’
Someone opened and shut the bathroom door next to Lucy’s which meant she missed Peggy’s reply but then she heard Peggy say ‘The next lot are due soon and we’ll need more again. I’ll speak to Aunt Jo…..’
The voices receded as they moved down the corridor. Lucy realised she would have to hurry. She tore off her pyjamas and jumped into the bath, forgetting she had not put in her usual dose of warm water. A quick wash was all she could cope with and she got her things on again and emptied the bath. By the time she had brushed her teeth and started the tap running, the next girl was banging on the door.
‘Hurry up, Luce! We haven’t got all day!’
Lucy opened the door. ‘DON’T CALL ME LUCE!’ she yelled and ran back to the dormitory, hotly pursued by Matron who had obviously finished her conversation and was lurking in the corridor, hoping to spot wrong-doing by someone. Anyone would do.
‘Lucy Thomas! Whatever do you mean by yelling like a street urchin?’ Matron demanded.
‘I’m fed up with people shortening my name!’ Lucy said hotly. ‘Lucy is short enough and it’s MY name.’
‘Oh it’s just the schoolgirl way, shortening everyone’s name,’ Matron said. ‘Mrs Maynard started the tradition and everything she did in this school was wonderful. She’s a legend you know.’
‘I don’t care if she’s the Archangel Gabriel’s chief helper,’ Lucy said. ‘I’m not having my name shortened!’
Matron looked as if she was about to faint at this slur on her beloved Joey but rallied. ‘I’ve never heard such cheek!’
‘You’ve had a very sheltered life then, Matey.’
‘How dare you address me as “Matey”? Impudent child!’
‘You don’t like your name shortened either!’ Lucy said triumphantly. She had worked out that if she was rude enough to Matron, she would get sent to Miss Annersley, which was exactly where she wanted to go.
Matron glared at her. ‘Get dressed right now and report to the San.’ She swept out.
The other girls had stood, aghast as the row between Matron and Lucy took place. What on earth had got into Lucy? She had been lucky not to be expelled after her previous behaviour and now this!
Lucy dressed, stripped her bed and then went to the San. Unfortunately for her, Matron decided not to send her to Miss Annersley, merely informing her that she was obviously sickening for something and giving her a dose of disgusting medicine. As soon as Matron turned her back to put the bottle away, Lucy spat the medicine into the aspidistra which stood beside the desk.
It was time for breakfast so Lucy headed downstairs and took her place at the table. Seeing her stormy expression, her classmates left her alone and concentrated on their own breakfast.
The first lesson was Italian. Lucy knew she was going to have to misbehave enough to get sent to Miss Annersley. It grieved her to do so, as she enjoyed her Italian lessons and liked Miss Denny. By the middle of the lesson, Miss Denny was beginning to lose patience with Lucy, who had stared into space, been unable to answer questions and shuffled constantly in her seat.
‘Lucy, if you are going to behave like a Junior I will have to treat you like one,’ Miss Denny said. ‘Come and sit here, right in front of my desk.’
‘Shan’t’ Lucy said and flounced out of the classroom. The other girls sat, mouth agape. Obviously Lucy was going all out to get expelled. But why? This was the best school in the world, everyone at the Chalet School knew that!
Miss Denny caught up with Lucy outside the classroom.
‘What’s wrong, Lucy?’ she asked gently. ‘This isn’t at all like you. Have you something you need to tell Miss Annersley?’
Lucy looked up at her, shocked. ‘Why…. How…..’
Miss Denny smiled. ‘Didn’t Aunt Jane tell you she had someone else on the inside?’ she said in a low voice. A prefect was coming along the corridor.
‘Go and report yourself to Miss Annersley now!’ Miss Denny told Lucy. ‘And do not bring behaviour like that into my classroom again!’
Lucy set off to Miss Annersley’s study but she was teaching. Rosalie, exasperated at seeing the school’s new arch-trouble-maker back again gave her short shrift.
‘You can sit outside in the corridor on the naughty seat until she returns.’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Lucy is released from incarceration but is very soon back in trouble again.