After the “deafness” incident, Alicia gets “a good scolding and extra prep” from Miss Potts:
‘If Alicia shows any further signs of deafness, send her to me,’ said Miss Potts, coldly. ‘I can always cure it at once.’
She walked off. Mam’zelle began to breathe quickly. ‘The bad girl, Alicia—She has pulled my foot,’ said Mam’zelle, who sometimes got a little mixed! ‘She has hoodie-winked me! Never again will I believe her, the bad girl.’
Foreigners — SO HILARIOUS, am I right?
Meanwhile, Darrell’s fawning gets her promoted to full gang membership, with Mary-Lou taking her place as hanger-onerer.
Gwendoline was jealous of the way Alicia and Betty, recognized leaders in the first form, had made friends with Darrell. After all, Darrell was as new as she herself was. And she, Gwendoline, was much prettier, and had, she was sure, much more charm of manner.
She took Sally Hope into her confidence. ‘I don’t like the way Darrell Rivers pushes herself forward all the time, do you?’ she said to Sally. ‘Thinking she’s so marvellous! Chumming up with Alicia and Betty. Not that I would if they asked me.’
Sally didn’t look very interested, but Gwendoline didn’t mind. She went on grumbling about Darrell. ‘She thinks she’s got such good brains, she thinks she plays such a marvellous game of tennis, she thinks she’s so good at swimming! I’ve a good mind to show her that I’m twice as good as she is!’
‘Well, why don’t you?’ said Sally, bored. ‘Instead of showing everyone you’re twice as bad!’
Sorry, I just realised that Sally is Mai from Avatar. NO WONDER I LOVE HER!
Gwen would quite like to be Azula, but sadly isn’t actually a prodigy. And I have to say, I wouldn’t rate her chances at military conquest:
‘All right,’ said Gwendoline grandly. ‘I will just show you, Sally. I haven’t really tried before, because it didn’t seem w orth it. I didn’t want to come to Malory Towers, and Mother didn’t want me to either. It was Daddy that made me come. I did marvellously with my governess. Miss Winter, and I could do marvellously now, if only I thought it was worth while!’
Alicia came up and heard this curious speech. She laughed loudly.
‘You can’t play tennis, you can’t swim, you squeal when your toe touches the cold water, you don’t even know all your twelve times table, baby! And then you talk of it not being worth while to show what you can do! You can’t do a thing and never will, whilst you have such a wonderful opinion of yourself!’
Much as I have my standard Alicia-side-eye in place, I like that Gwen’s flaw here is not that she’s good at stuff, but that she doesn’t care to improve.
(Question: did anyone actually learn their twelve times tables? I didn’t! For me, 12 x X = (10 x X) + (2 x X). LOOK, IT GETS ME THE RIGHT ANSWER, OKAY?)
So here’s where Gwen becomes actually horrible. She hates swimming, right? Well:
There was only one person worse than she was, and that was poor Mary-Lou. No one teased Mary-Lou too much. It was too like teasing a small, bewildered kitten. Gwendoline saw her floundering about near her, and because she knew Mary-Lou was even more afraid of the pool than she was, she felt a sense of power.
She waded over to Mary-Lou, jumped on her suddenly and got her under the water. Mary-Lou had no time to scream. She opened her mouth and the water poured in. She began to struggle desperately. Gwendoline, feeling the struggles, spitefully held her under longer than she had intended to.
CONGRATULATIONS, GWENDOLINE, YOU’VE CROSSED THE LINE FROM “TOXICALLY SOCIALLY INEPT” TO “SCHOOL BULLY”. WELL DONE.
Darrell takes a strong stance against drowning classmates. She rescues Mary-Lou and threatens to treat Gwen the same way she just treated Mary-Lou. Gwen beats a hasty escape, and then:
‘I’m not going to duck you. you little coward!’ she cried. ‘But I am going to show you what happens to people like you!’
There came the sound of four stinging slaps and Gwendoline squealed with pain. Darrell’s hand was strong and hard, and she had slapped with all her might, anywhere she could reach as Gwendoline hastily tried to drag herself out of the water. The slaps sounded like pistol-shots.
Much as everyone probably secretly wanted to see someone slap Gwendoline, no one is impressed. Especially not when Darrell, angry at being told off by dorm-head Katherine, looses a verbal volley as well:
Still blazing, Darrell rounded on Katherine. ‘Some-body’s got to teach that cowardly Gwendoline, haven’t they?’
‘Yes. But not you,’ said Katherine, coolly. ‘You put yourself in the wrong, slapping about like that. I’m ashamed of you!’
‘And I’m ashamed of vow!’ burst out Darrell, much to everyone’s amazement. ‘If I were head-girl of the first form I’d jolly well see that girls like Gwendoline learnt to swim and dive and everything, and left people like Mary-Lou alone. See?’
No one had seen Darrell in a temper before. They stared. ‘Get out of the pool,’ ordered Katherine. ‘Go on, get out. It’s a good thing no mistress saw you doing that.’
WHY IS THERE NO ADULT SUPERVISION AT THIS POOL? WHAT’S THE STUDENT DROWNING RATE AT MALORY TOWERS?
Everything that follows is important, so Imma just gonna do a whole lot of typing:
Hateful Gwendoline! Horrid Katherine! Beastly Malory Towers!
But before she reached the top of the cliff and came to the little gate that led into the grounds of Malory Towers, Darrell’s anger had all gone. She was dismayed. How could she have acted like that? And she had absolutely meant always to keep her temper now. and never let that white-hot flame of rage flare up as it used to do when she was smaller.
Very much subdued, Darrell went back to the school, dried herself and changed. She had been publicly scolded by Katherine. Nobody had backed her up at all, not even Alicia. She had shouted at the head-girl of her form. She had behaved just as badly to Gwendoline as Gwendoline had behaved to Mary-Lou—except that it must have been sheer cruelty that made Gwendoline almost drown Mary-Lou, and it was anger, not cruelty, that made her slap Gwendoline so hard. Still—anger was cruel, so maybe she was just as bad as Gwendoline.
She felt sorry she had slapped Gwendoline now. That was the worst of having such a hot temper. You did things all in a hurry, without thinking, and then, when your temper had gone, you were terribly ashamed, and couldn’t manage to feel better until you had gone to say were sorry to the person you had hurt, and whom you still disliked heartily.
Darrell heard somebody sniffling in the changing-room. She looked to see who it was. It was Gwendoline, dole-fully examining the brilliant red streaks down her thighs. That was where Darrell had slapped her. Gwendoline sniffed loudly.
‘I shall write and tell Mother,’ she thought. If only she could see those red streaks—why, you can see all Darrell’s fingers in this one!’
Darrell came up behind her and made her jump. ‘Gwendoline! I’m sorry I did that. I really am. I was just so awfully angry I couldn’t stop myself.’
Gwendoline was neither generous nor gracious enough to accept such a natural apology. She drew herself up and looked at Darrell as if she smelt nasty.
‘I should hope you are sorry!’ she said contemptuously. ‘ I shall write and tell my mother. If she thought girls at Malory Towers would behave like you do, she’d never have sent me here!’
And that’s where the chapter ends.
I have lots of feelings about this, and they’re all kind of mixed up, being the feelings I had when I was nine, and the feelings I have now. So let’s sort them all out with the aid of … Young!Liz!
“Hello, younger self.”
“Are you my future?”
“Yep! Check out this great hair we’re going to have!”
“…I’m going to get fat?”
“I feel that ‘plump’ is a more accurate way to describe my state of well-padded overweightness. Anyway, you’re wearing leggings as pants.”
“…That’s bad? They’re comfortable! Look, I’m wearing this cool shirt with shoulder pads, too!”
“And an Alice band and a ponytail!”
“Okay, so you need to stop thinking of fatness in pejorative terms, and I need to stop judging people on ultimately harmless fashion choices. Anyway, younger self, I wanted to talk to you about Malory Towers.”
“Oh, I love Malory Towers! I wish I was a student there!”
“I know you do, honey. Let’s talk about that time Darrell slapped Gwendoline.”
“Wasn’t that amazing? I mean, no, it was terrible! She shouldn’t have done it! But it made me like her better, because I have a horrible temper as well.”
“Me too! Remember that time we told our brother he ruined our life?”
*happy mutual memories*
“On the other hand, Younger!Liz, we never slapped one of our classmates.”
“Um, we kind of did, Older!Liz. Remember that time in third grade when we thought our best friend Martha had gone to class without us? So we thought it would be a really fine, grown-up sort of gesture to hit her with our school hat?”
“Oh God, yes. And she cried, and we realised right away what a horrible thing we’d done, so we cried–”
“And then those older girls tried to comfort us, and we went them away because we were a bad person!”
“I didn’t want to remember that, Younger!Liz. Thanks a lot.”
“I know! It’s terrible! But that’s how Darrell felt. Only she had a proper reason to be angry. And she apologised instead of crying.”
“I don’t like the way she just expects Gwen to accept her apology.”
“But, Older!Liz, isn’t that what people do? I mean, you have to accept apologies. If they’re real. How do you know when an apology isn’t real?”
“Trust me, kid, you’ll know. But how does Gwen know it’s a real apology? She’s never been around people her own age before!”
“You’re confusing me, Older!Liz. I don’t think you’re reading the story right.”
“I’m definitely applying a twenty-first century ideology to a mid-twentieth century novel. Can we at least agree that the way Gwendoline treated Mary-Lou was entirely uncool?”
“It was very wrong. Wow, I can’t wait until I know how to use ‘ideology’ in a sentence properly! Do you have a flying car?”
“No, but I have a computer that fits in my pocket and is also a phone.”
“I’m going to grow up to be a millionaire!”
“Um, yeah. Sure.”
Okay, so it turns out my younger self isn’t all that helpful.