‘I’m so glad you can travel south with Lucy, Miss Marple,’ Reverend Thomas said as they stood on the platform of the railway station at Haddington.
‘It’s my pleasure,’ Miss Marple assured him. ‘And I will make sure that Lucy is handed over safely to the escort mistress who will be taking the girls to Wales.’
‘I don’t like sending her so far away,’ Reverend Thomas said. ‘But the scholarship will make all the difference.’ He addressed his daughter. ‘Now you must work very hard, Lucy, to keep up your scholarship. This is a very great opportunity for you. God bless you, my child.’
Lucy rolled her eyes but said nothing, dutifully giving her father a kiss and boarding the train with no sign of tears at leaving home. Miss Marple followed her and the door was shut. The whistle blew and they were off. A quick wave to Lucy’s father and the train pulled out of the station.
‘Well, Lucy, this is the start of our adventure!’
‘I knew there was more to this than meets the eye,’ Lucy said. ‘You’re that Miss Marple aren’t you?’
‘Oh dear. Yes. You know of me. What have you heard?’
‘That every time you go anywhere someone dies. At least one person. Should I be worried?’
Miss Marple reached for her knitting. ‘Oh no, dear. You are my agent. You will be perfectly safe from harm.’
Lucy settled back in her seat, satisfied. ‘That’s fine then. So what’s the plan?’
‘Inspector Haddock from Scotland Yard came to see me last week,’ Miss Marple explained. ‘Such a dear man. He’s been worried for a while about strange happenings at the Chalet School.’
‘How could he tell what a strange happening is?’ Lucy asked. ‘From what I hear they’re pretty strange all the time. Cold baths in the morning, manic mattress-turning, getting stuck up mountains and in avalanches and then crowning it all by escaping from Austria only to get caught in the German occupation of Guernsey!’
‘Yes, put that like it does make one wonder,’ Miss Marple agreed. ‘But the Inspector is concerned about criminal activity.’
‘Cold baths sounds pretty criminal to me,’ Lucy said. ‘What else is going on?’
‘Last year, a Dutch girl was returning to school after visiting her aunt in Scotland, and she disappeared.’
‘Really?’ Lucy said. ‘What happened?’
‘Her aunt took her to this very train – the 4.50 from Haddington – but when it got to London, the girl, Marie Varick her name was, didn’t report to the escort mistress.’
‘Maybe she just couldn’t hack the idea of more cold baths,’ Lucy suggested. ‘Maybe she’s living the high life in London with a sugar daddy.’
Miss Marple didn’t seem perturbed by Lucy’s knowledge of things a nice thirteen year old Chalet Girl shouldn’t know about. ‘It’s not very likely, Lucy. Marie was devoted to her aunt and would never have worried her by not getting in touch.’
‘Is that all we’ve got to go on?’ Lucy asked. ‘A year old mystery and no leads?’
‘Not exactly, Lucy dear. The Chalet School opened a new house for its seniors last term – Bertram House. Inspector Haddock is sure there’s something not right about it.’
Lucy refrained from the obvious pun. ‘How am I going to find out what’s happening in the seniors’ house. I’m going to be a naughty Middle.’
‘I did have my worries about that, but knowing you were the right person to send there was more important than age considerations. However, now that you’ve turned fourteen and with your excellent results from your Scottish school, it’s been decided to put you in Lower Va.’
‘So I’ll be a senior?’ Lucy said, pleased.
‘You will. And I’m confident that you’ll find out what’s going on, a bright girl like you. Now shall we go along to the dining car and get some breakfast?’
‘Yes please,’ Lucy said. ‘Getting the train at 4.50 in the morning is just gross.’
Over breakfast, Lucy thought of another query. ‘How will I get a report to you? St Mary Mead is a long way from Armiford.’
‘I’m going to be staying with my second cousin in Armiford,’ Miss Marple explained. ‘So I’ll see you quite often.’
‘Look out Armiford,’ Lucy muttered. ‘Multiple deaths here we come.’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Lucy sets off for her new school, unaware that travelling on this train can be injurious to future existence.