The shrill ringing of the telephone shattered the temporary peace of Plas Gwyn, and prompted a great clattering of footsteps as thirteen-year old Daisy Venables launched herself down the stairs. After a short monosyllabic conversation, she retreated back up to the stairs to the large playroom where she found the house’s mistress – one Joey Maynard, formerly Bettany – sunning herself on the plump couch with her legs curled up reading her latest proofs. ‘Auntie Jo,’ she murmured softly, trying her best not to wake the sleeping triplets, ‘that was Auntie Madge on the ’phone.’
‘Oh, and what’s her news?’ Jo replied.
‘She didn’t say, but she’s cycling across for tea.’
After a last check on the sleeping toddlers, Daisy and Jo left the room and began to set the table for tea.
‘I think we can open a new pot of jam,’ Jo mused. ‘Will you fetch the new apricot one, Daisy-girl?’
Daisy hurried off and soon the sitting room table was attractively set with bread and butter, and the jam, while the woollen tea cosy hugged the teapot. At this appropriate juncture, Jo heard wheels on the path outside, before a sharp tap on the front-door. Daisy hurried off and ushered in a cheerful Madge Russell.
‘Daisy, my dear,’ she said, stooping down to kiss Daisy’s cheek. ‘If I’m not careful you’re soon going to be my height. What a length you are!’
‘I’m trying hard to catch up,’ Daisy quipped.
‘Well, where’s my tea? I’m thirsty after that ride.’
‘It’s all ready, Auntie Madge. Auntie Jo’s through here.’
After the appropriate greetings and cups of tea were exchanged, Madge finally reached the reason for her visit.
‘Jo, do you remember me telling you about that new scholarship we’re offering for the Chalet School?’
‘That one for those high schools…what were their names again?’ Jo thought for a bit before giving up. ‘That one?’
‘Yes,’ Madge replied with amusement. ‘Well, we’ve got the first scholarship winner joining us this term.’
‘That’s quick. Where’s she from?’
‘That’s not the important thing, Auntie Jo.’ Daisy exclaimed with impatience. ‘What form will she be in, Auntie Madge?’
Well, she’s twelve so unlikely to be with your lot. My guess would be the Upper Third but she’ll still have to do the form tests next term.’
‘You haven’t told us her name yet, Madge…or where she’s from?’ Jo repeated with a grin.
‘Very well, Jo, she’s from a village called Littler Weirwold – ’
‘What an odd name!’ Jo exclaimed.
‘ – and her name’s Caroline, Caroline Thatcher,’ Madge continued, ignoring Jo’s interruption.
Miss May Thorne delivered the post on her ancient bicycle – which Zach described as a “fossil on wheels” – just after breakfast. Carrie and her twin, Ginnie, were busy helping their mother with the housework so were in the kitchen when she arrived. Miss May handed Mrs Thatcher a handful of letters before continuing to the Birds next-door.
‘Here’s one for you then, Carrie,’ Mrs Thatcher said as she passed a stiff white envelope to her daughter.
Mister Tom, Will and Zach returned to Littler Weirwold that Wednesday. They were greeted by an assortment of ‘welcome home’ goodies from the twins and George. Zach remained at the cottage for supper before wheeling his bicycle through Dobbs’ field and along the tiny arched lane, and leaned it against the Littles’ hedge. He was just struggling with the gate when an urgent voice came suddenly out of the darkness. He was so startled that he physically jumped.
‘Sorry!’ said the voice. ‘I didn’t mean to scare you, like.’
Zach peered over the hedge.
‘Carrie!’ he cried in amazement. ‘What are you doing here?’
She helped him wrench open the gate and waited till he had wheeled his bicycle through.
‘You look like a black man,’ she remarked.
‘Marvellous for Othello, eh?’
‘What you on about?’ she said, feeling quite exasperated, for she had been waiting for his arrival for a good three hours.
‘The passionate Moor,’ explained Zach. ‘You know, Shakespeare.’
‘Oh, Shakespeare!’ groaned Carrie. ‘You know, I ent read him yet.’
‘Yet! You mean you might actually be tempted to?’
‘Yes. Oh, Zach.’ She clutched his arm and stared fearfully into his eyes.
‘What?’ he said. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘I’ve passed the exam. I got a scholarship. I’m to be a Chalet School girl.’
*text in Italics from Goodnight Mister Tom