|‘Are we really going to Glasgow for half-term, Miss Annersley?’|
The headmistress smiled at the excited face of Lucy Thomas, a star pupil in Lower Va. ‘Yes, Lucy we are indeed going to Glasgow. It is a city with great history and tradition and I think you will find the visit enjoyable as well as educational.’
Lucy bobbed the traditional curtsey and hurried off to discuss the trip with her classmates.
‘I know it’s a bit further afield than we normally go,’ Miss Annersley remarked to Miss Denny. ‘But I feel that the girls in that form in particular deserve a treat after what they went through last term. Losing Peggy like that was a big shock to them.’
‘It was,’ Miss Denny agreed. ‘Though I must say that I’m glad that traitorous little minx is safely in a Reform School. And that all the other bad apples were weeded out and put in jail.’
‘I don’t know how Madge is coping,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘With Jem and Jo both being in prison and Peggy in Reform School. She’s been visiting them faithfully and looking after Jo’s five children as well as her own. No wonder she’s looking so harassed.’
‘She’s aged over it all, that’s for certain,’ Sarah Denny agreed. ‘Not surprising when you consider the damage to the school’s reputation along with everything else. After all, it’s her livelihood.’
‘I feel a bit guilty going off with the girls at half term,’ Miss Annersley confided. ‘But I need a break too. Last term was truly awful and the Christmas holiday passed in a whirl of finding more information for the police and trying to catch up on things. Without a secretary as well.’
‘Yes, who would have thought that Rosalie was behind it all? Though I’ve heard it said that it’s the quiet ones you need to watch!’
Miss Annersley shuddered. ‘When I think of the number of times I nearly confided in Rosalie about my worries, it gives me nightmares! Something always held me back from telling her about Lucy being here undercover and her supposed Aunt Jane being a first-class detective.’
‘Good instincts,’ Sarah Denny said. ‘That’s what stopped you, and thank Heavens they did.’ The two mistresses went inside for their customary G&T before supper and the subject was allowed to rest.
Two days later, disaster almost struck the planned trip when several mistresses went down with flu. Miss Annersley was profoundly thankful that Matey had repented of her part in the conspiracy, which had fortunately been very slight, as otherwise a new Matron would have been needed. It wasn’t altogether proper to have an erstwhile criminal conspirator on the staff but with all the other problems, they could ill afford to lose Matey as well.
‘And as it says in the Bible, “there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents than in ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”’ Madge had said piously, just after all the arrests.
‘And more to the point the parents don’t know she was ever involved and she’s a bloody good Matron,’ Miss Annersley said, more practically.
While Matey had her hands full looking after members of staff, Miss Annersley had to work out how to cover all the half-term outings. With a struggle she managed to cover all of them except her Glasgow trip. She couldn’t take all the girls on her own. A sudden idea struck her and she asked for Lucy to be sent along to her study.
Lucy arrived with no sense of apprehension. Whilst not a goody-goody, she was an excellent student and, as a result of a strict but loving upbringing by her father who was a vicar (Mummy having run off with a circus performer when Lucy was five), she was very well-behaved. As there was no-one else in the study, and knowing Miss Annersley didn’t hold with the outmoded tradition of curtseying, Lucy simply greeted her headmistress and stood waiting to hear why she had been summoned.
‘Do you think your Aunt Jane would be prepared to accompany us on the trip to Glasgow?’ Miss Annersley asked. ‘We’re desperately short-staffed with this flu epidemic.’
‘Are you sure that’s wise, Miss Annersley?’ Lucy asked. ‘You know how a trail of bodies follows her everywhere she goes.’
‘Oh surely she’s had her quota for now,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘There were three when she was here last October, though admittedly one had occurred a while before that and was only discovered then.’
‘She’s been back at St Mary Mead since then and they haven’t had a single death,’ Lucy said. ‘So her batting average is a bit on the low side. Still, be it on your own head if you invite her!’
‘I think I’ll take the risk, Lucy. Otherwise I’d have to cancel the Glasgow trip.’
Lucy agreed that a death or two would be preferable to no trip, so she left Miss Annersley phoning Aunt Jane to see if she was free to go to Glasgow.
The next morning they were off, Miss Marple meeting them en route and the whole party heading for Glasgow in high spirits. These were dampened somewhat when they met the guest house proprietor, Mrs Urquhart-MacTavish, a dour, grim person who seemed to view guests as an infernal nuisance. Still, the bedrooms were clean and the food good so they settled in, looking forward to their outing the following day to the People’s Palace.
‘She’s a bit low-class,’ Miss Annersley remarked to Miss Marple as they unpacked in the bedroom they were sharing. ‘I wonder how she owns this place? Must have married above herself.’
‘Yes. Perhaps,’ Miss Marple commented. ‘She reminds me of Dulcie Smith, a maid I once trained. She was a very enterprising girl. It was obvious she would better herself one way or another. And she did. Married very well.’
The plans were delayed somewhat the following morning on discovering that breakfast had been all set out but no-one was around to serve it. Further investigation showed that the food had all been laid out in the kitchen but there was no sign of Mrs Urquhart-MacTavish.
Miss Annersley took a decision. ‘I think we should help ourselves, girls and then we’ll tidy everything away to help our landlady. Perhaps she’s been called away to deliver a baby or lay someone out. Apparently the working classes do that type of thing.’
The girls were a bit at a loss as to how to wash dishes, dry them and put them away and had no notion of folding up tablecloths, sweeping the floor or shaking out rugs. However Miss Marple had trained many recalcitrant maids in her time and directed them all to undertake their duties properly. Miss Annersley was glad of such guidance as she had no idea how to do these things either.
They had a very enjoyable outing to the museum and picture gallery at the People’s Palace and ate lunch in a café. It was late afternoon when they returned to the guest house, to be met by police officers, one in plain clothes.
‘I’m Inspector Taggart he said. There’s been a murr-dur.'
Following on from their triumphant unmasking of the Chalet School's criminal conspirators, Miss Marple and Lucy embark on a new adventure.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Miss Annersley decides to take some of the senior girls to Glasgow for half-term. Being short-staffed, she has to call on Miss Marple to help out, with the inevitable result.