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When the end of break came Lower II trundled into class, with the two exceptions of Lizzie and Myra. Miss Phipps told the class in no uncertain tones what she thought of girls who fought each other, then moved on to Science.

 

After all of the explanations she shortly dished out work. Joey had been keeping her head down and her mouth shut since the beginning of the day, seeing Miss Phipps in a bad bad mood, but looking at her sister's face, she raised her hand.

 

"What is it?" Miss Phipps snapped.

 

"I would like to speak to Matron," Joey used the most formal tones as she stood herself up.

 

"Why?"

 

"On a matter of urgency,"

 

"It can't be that urgent," said Miss Phipps. "Or is this another of your foolish games?"

 

"It's not a game," said Joey, quietly.

 

"Just sit down, and get on with your work," Miss Phipps said.

 

Joey pulled a face, but sat down and worked. While she was truly concerned, she knew that Miss Phipps wouldn't allow Joey to go to Matey, and Cecily wouldn't ask to go, not with Miss Phipps's mood, anyway. Joey sighed, and got on with her work quietly.

 

As always, Joey was finished first. She looked around, looking at the two rows of girls heads bent over their work. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. She looked round to her sister, and saw with a heavy heart that she had hardly done any of the work, and the answers she had were all wrong. She considered letting Cecily copy her answers, but Miss Phipps would get suspicious if they both came up with the same answers. She let her mind wander to the upcoming weekend instead, and what was for supper today.

 

Miss Phipps surveyed the room with a glance. Mostly the class had their heads down with pens in hand, but one member was just staring at her work, as if expecting it to do itself, and the girl next to her seemed to be relaxing; not doing her work.

 

"You two, get on with your work," said Miss Phipps.

 

"I've already finished mine," Joey replied back.

 

Miss Phipps walked to the spot right in front of Joey. "Show me,"

 

Joey passed her work over. Miss Phipps looked down the page, but could find no fault with it. Instead, she turned to Cecily and requested her work from her. Cecily reluctantly handed it over, and Miss Phipps could find lots of fault with it.

 

"This is abominable," she said. "Dreadful. I would have expected better from you, but evidently not. And staring at it never does anything, because you need to use your brain at school, it's not all fun and games. A four year old could have done better work than this,"

 

Cecily stared at her blankly, a solitary tear creeping down her face like a robber in the night.

 

"You are not here to play the fool. As far as I can see, you thought you and your sister could have some fun when you're supposed to be working. Therefore, I cannot trust that you will work when next to your sister. You will swap seats and count yourself lucky it's not a detention. Do I make myself clear?"

 

"Miss, it's not..." Joey started.

 

"Keep your mouth shut, Josephine, if I wanted your input, I'd have asked for it," Miss Phipps said. "Cecilia, you will move to the place Myra Davidson normally sits,"

 

"But..." Cecily started weakly.

 

"No ifs, no buts, move," said Miss Phipps, then added, "Now!"

 

Cecily stood up quickly, too quickly, for when she rose, the world turned black...

 

***

 

The lights were on, the sounds were clear, a woman was writing furiously at her desk, trying to get one last thing done.

 

"Up late again, Hilda?"

 

The woman, Hilda, looked up from her work.

 

"You know me well enough, Nell," Hilda said. "I was just hoping to finish one last thing for tonight,"

 

"How has today gone, then?" asked Nell.

 

"Not excellently, Nell," said Hilda. "Two Juniors decided to have a fight,"

 

"Which ones?" asked Nell.

 

"Lizzie Maynard and Myra Davidson," said Hilda. "Both Lizzie and Myra admitted to have started it,"

 

"I hope you told them off for the good of their souls," Nell said.

 

"Of course," said Hilda, and added, "Using The Voice,"

 

"I'd hate to have been in their shoes," said Nell, shivering at the thought. "So what did you do with them then?"

 

"I told them that for the foreseeable future they'd both be heavily supervised since I couldn't trust them to behave sensibly with only minimal supervision," said Hilda. "In different phrasing so that they'd understand,"

 

"Of course," said Nell. Then, with an innocent expression, "I don't know why you needed to add that last bit,"

 

"Stop trying to look angelic," Hilda replied. "You'd look much better with red horns. And more believable too,"

 

"Hilda! As if I'd tell nothing but the truth," Nell said. "But do go on,"

 

"I sent the two girls to Matey," Hilda said. "They had some scrapes that needed to be attended to,"

 

"They had been fighting," said Nell. "What did May have to say about it?"

 

"She blamed herself when we discussed the matter," said Hilda. "She said that all of the problems in the Junior community were her fault and her fault only, and that she should be sacked immediately,"

 

"What?!?" exclaimed Nell.

 

"It is the truth," said Hilda. "She said that she was evidently unsuitable for the role, and would be better off looking after her brother's house, even if that meant losing her salary,"




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