First Term at Malory Towers – Chapters 21 and 22

Previously, Gwendoline took Extreme Actions against Mary-Lou by destroying her beloved fountain pen.  NOT OKAY, GWEN.  NOT OKAY.

Only two chapters left!

Chapter 21: A Shock for Darrell

It was Jean who saw the smashed pen first. She came into the common room to get a book, and stopped short when she saw the ink on the floor, and the bits and pieces of the blue pen.

“Golly!” said Jean. “Who’s done that? What a mean trick!”

It’s not until book 2, I think, that Blyton starts to use phonetic spelling for Jean’s accent.

Mary-Lou came in with the quiet Violet. When she saw her pen, she stood and wailed aloud. “Oh! Who’s done that? I had it for my birthday from Mother. And now it’s all smashed!”

DESTROYING A FOUNTAIN PEN IS A TERRIBLE THING TO DO.

Blyton has belatedly remembered the existence of Violet.  Don’t get too attached, I’m pretty certain this is her last-ever appearance.

Everyone is naturally appalled at the wanton destruction of a fountain pen, AS THEY SHOULD BE.  While Gwen lurks outside the common room, practicing her best look of innocence, Sherlock Alicia is on the case:

“Well, whoever stamped on this pen and smashed it must have got violet ink on the underneath of their shoes,” said Alicia grimly.

Much as I’m completely over depictions of Sherlock Holmes and similarly brilliant detective-types as vaguely sociopathic assholes, I’m willing to make an exception if the detective is a clever schoolgirl.  Perhaps, after she leaves school and finishes university, Alicia can go on to FIGHT CRIME.

[I typed that way back on 9 August.  Last week, I read Pamela Cox’s official sequels — more on them in a future post — and what do you know, Alicia eventually becomes a policewoman!]

“I know without looking!” said Darrell’s scornful voice. “Nobody could have done it but Gwendoline. There’s no one mean or spiteful enough but her!”

Look, all I’m saying is, we don’t know anything about Violet.  She could be Jack the Ripper for all we know.

Gwendoline trembled with rage and fright. She took a hasty look at the underneath of her out-door shoes. Yes,they were stained violet ink. Hastily she ran down the passage, ran into the little store-room, took up a bottle of violet ink, and raced to the cloakroom where the shoe-lockers were.

Things which have not been mentioned before this scene: “the little store-room”, the cloakroom.

Inspired by Mary-Lou, I desperately wanted to write with a violet fountain pen when I was nine.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my pen licence, and also didn’t know what a fountain pen was, so I wrote with a purple watercolour pencil instead.  For a day, until my teacher looked at my school books and put an end to it.

Come to think of it, I never did get my pen licence…

Gwendoline smeared some of the violet ink on to the undersides of one of Darrell’s shoes, then threw the bottle into a nearby cupboard. Then she hastily took off her own stained shoes, and stuffed them into the cupboard too. She pulled on a pair of slippers.

Me: GWEN NO

Gwen: GWEN YES.

Gwen then puts on her most innocent impression and starts shifting blame to Darrell instead.

“Don’t glare at me like that, Darrell. I haven’t done it! Much more likely you have! I’ve noticed you’ve been jealous ever since so much fuss was made of Mary-Lou for jumping into the pool to rescue you!”

Gwen: queen of gaslighting.

Everyone gasped. How could Gwendoline have the cheek to say a thing like that? Darrell began to boil. She felt the familiar red-hot flame rising up in her. Sally saw her face and put her hand on her arm.

“Go slow, old thing,” she said, gently, and Darrell simmered down.

Sally: queen of everything.

Gwen further cements her innocence by volunteering to show off her ink-free shoes first.  (Of course, she’s currently wearing slippers.  I wonder that sort of slippers Blyton had in mind?  Probably not Ugg boots.  Or bunny slippers.  Or shark slippers.)

It was one of Darrell’s shoes that was smeared with the bright-coloured ink! Katherine pulled it out, and then stared at it in the greatest amazement and horror. She held it out in silence to Darrell.

“It’s—it’s your shoe!” she said. “Oh, Darrell!”

“Oh, Darrell!” indeed.

Alicia deals with this new knowledge with all the sensitivity we have come to expect:

Darrell stared at the inky shoe speechlessly. She looked round at the silent girls beside her. Some of them turned away their eyes. Alicia met hers with a hard look.

“Well, well, who would have guessed it was our straight-forward Darrell?” said Alicia, flippantly. “I wouldn’t have thought it of you, Darrell.”

She turned away with a look of disgust. Darrell caught hold of her arm.

“Alicia! You surely don’t thinksmashed the pen! I didn’t, I tell you, I didn’t! I would never dream of doing such a hateful thing. Oh, Alicia—how could you think I’d do it?”

“Well—you can’t deny your shoe is inky,” said Alicia. “You’ve got a dreadful temper, Darrell, and I’ve no doubt that in a fit of spite you stamped on Mary-Lou’s pen. Don’t ask me why! I haven’t a temper like yours.”

“But Alicia—I’m not spiteful!” cried Darrell. “You know I’m not. Alicia, I thought you were my friend! You and Betty always let me come with you. You can’t believe a thing like this about a friend of yours.”

“You’re no friend of mine,” said Alicia, and swung out of the room.

ALICIA

WOW

Obviously the evidence against Darrell seems quite damning, but no one else is as eager to drop her.  Sally and Mary-Lou, in fact, don’t believe it at all, and promise to stick by Darrell.

The remaining girls decide, reluctantly, that they will “have to think of her as the culprit”.  Schoolgirl justice is harsh, you guys.

Sally and Mary-Lou nope right out of the shunning of Darrell.

Mary-Lou was openly defiant to Gwendoline. But it was all very unpleasant, and though no one had suggested a punishment for the smashing of the pen, it was punishment enough to have cool looks and cold voices always around.

Mary-Lou, being Mary-Lou, is quite stressed about this business.  (Ah, Mary-Lou, born too soon for anti-anxiety medication.)  She lies awake fretting, which somehow turns into crime-solving via logical deduction.  Sherlock Mary-Lou!

(Man, when I’m having anxiety-related insomnia, I’m coming up with plausible scenarios for everyone I know to be dead.)

Mary-Lou sat up in excitement. She was suddenly sure that that was what had happened. She began to shake a little, as she always did when she was frightened or excited. Where could Gwendoline have hidden her shoes? Somewhere near the shoe-lockers, anyway. Would she have taken them away and hidden them in a safer place? Or might they still be there?

MARY-LOU: QUIET, TINY HEROINE.  She’s scared of the dark, remember, but somehow finds the courage to sneak downstairs to the cloakroom without screaming.

She looked at the lockers. That was Gwendoline’s over there. She went to it and took out all the shoes. No—not one was inky. Now—where could inky ones be hidden?

It’s curious that these lockers don’t seem to be kept, you know, locked.

Oh yeah, and that’s the end of chapter!

Chapter 22: The End of the Term

OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE ALMOST DONE!  THIS IS SO EXCITING!

Mary-Lou is rummaging through the little cupboard, and comes across both the ink bottle and Gwen’s shoes.

“So it was Gwendoline! It was! I knew it wasn’t Darrell!” thought Mary-Lou, joyfully. “I’ll go straight back and wake the others. I’ll tell them at once. Well—no, I won’t. Perhaps Katherine would be cross if she knew I’d gone snooping round at night.”

Of all Blyton’s midnight-heroics-performing-schoolgirls, Mary-Lou is literally the only one who ever thinks twice about waking people up.

And she’s so delighted to have found the truth that she forgets to be afraid as she runs back to the dorm in the dark.

Mary-Lou was awake first in the morning. She went to Katherine’s bed and shook the surprised head-girl. “Wake up! I’ve something important to tell you! Wake all the others.”

The others awoke when they heard the disturbance, and sat up in bed, rubbing their eyes. Mary-Lou stood in front of the beds, and waved Gwendoline’s shoes dramatically.

This is the most adorable image.  It’s like CHRISTMAS, but for CRIME SOLVING.

Mary-Lou has also overcome her fear of public speaking, and outlines her adventures of the previous night.  But she doesn’t have to name Gwen as the real culprit:

Gwendoline’s face was red with shame and horror. She stared at Mary-Lou in misery and anger. So she had been found out after all! Why hadn’t she taken those shoes and the bottle and thrown them into the sea!

LITTERING WOULDN’T IMPROVE THINGS FOR YOU, GWEN.

The girls apologise to Darrell, who is “radiant”.

Alicia was a little stiff about it, for she felt really ashamed of the hard words she had said. But then, Alicia was hard. She had a good many lessons to learn before she could lose her hardness and gain in sympathy and understanding of others.

THANKS, NARRATIVE VOICE OF MORALITY

“I’d like to be friends again,”she said, awkwardly. “You’ll come along with Betty and me as you did before, won’t you?”

“Well,” said Darrell, looking round at Sally’s steadfast little face beside her, “well—I think if you don’t mind, I’ll stick to Sally and Mary-Lou. I wasn’t always nice to them, but they did stick by me when I was in trouble—and they’re my real friends now!”

Real friendship: 1

Alicia and her ego: 0

Darrell even manages to be graceful towards Gwen:

“Gwendoline! I shan’t say a word about this to any one and neither will the others if I ask them not to. But you’ve got to buy Mary-Lou a lovely pen in return for the one you smashed. See?”

I feel like Mary-Lou should have something to say about this, but it’s not like anyone took her wishes seriously when she stood up for Darrell.

Gwen accordingly buys a new pen for Mary-Lou, but she can’t bring herself to apologise.  The Narrative Voice of Morality tells us that Gwen is weaker than Mary-Lou, “for she hadn’t even the strength to conquer herself”.

Darrell wonders if Gwen will ever become a decent person.  Katherine thinks yes, because Malory Towers is magic.

On the upside, Gwen gets a fairly decent report card, considering she only started studying in the last few weeks of the term, so that’s better than a kick in the head.

Sally and Darrell are officially BFFs at last, and are going to visit each other on the holidays and brainwash their sisters.

“You’ll see my little sister,” Darrell said. “You’ll like her. She’s a sport.”

“And you’ll see mine, too,” said Sally, half-shyly. “I shall have to teach her to be a sport—like you!”

Spoilers for the future post about the official sequels: DAPHNE HOPE IS THE WORST.

Mary-Lou wished she lived nearer either Sally or Darrell, then she might have been able to see them. Never mind, there was always next term, and the next… Mary-Lou had the sense to know that Sally was Darrell’s real friend, and not herself—but she didn’t mind.

The weirdest thing in the entire series is this idea that people can’t be BFFs with more than one person, and that trios don’t “count” the way duos do.

IT’S THE END OF TERM!  EVERYONE GOES CRAZY!  Except Miss Potts.

Miss Potts, calm and efficient even in the midst of utter confusion, handed out small bags, marked children off the list when parents fetched them in cars, found lost keys and generally remained the one sane person in North Tower.

Like Potty isn’t always the one sane person in North Tower.

And I’m allowed to call her Potty, because that’s what people do on the last day:

“It’s the only time we do, just when we shout good-bye!” said Alicia with a grin. “She never seems to mind then. Look at her grinning all over her face!”

Darrell leaned out of the coach. “Good-bye, Potty!” she yelled. “Good-bye—and good-bye Malory Towers!” she said, almost under her breath. “I’ll be glad to see you again.”

What a nice last sentence!  What a great ending!  Wait, what’s this?  Another paragraph?

Good-bye! Good-bye till next time. Good-bye, Darrell and Sally and the rest. We’ll meet you again soon. Good luck till then.

Oh.  Well, thanks, Grown-Up Narrator.  That was a completely necessary addition to the chapter and in no way outdated and patronising.

But I shouldn’t be too hard on Enid, because First Term at Malory Towers was written in 48 hours.  By contrast, this series of posts has taken several years, which is also the amount of time it took to write my own middle grade boarding school novel.

(In fairness, I took time out to program a convention, co-edit a book and then chair a convention, and also I had a day job.  On the other hand, I still need to write three more chapters.)

STAY TUNED FOR THE SECOND BOOK.  I did briefly consider switching to the first St Clare’s book just for the contrast, but I think I’d rather knock Malory Towers out, then do St Clare’s.  At my current speed, we should get to the Naughtiest Girl books around the time I hit retirement age, assuming that whole concept hasn’t been abolished by the time I’m 70.

Adventures in foreign covers!

Dutch edition. I’m pretty sure Darrell’s head is pastede onto a boy’s body. But hey, it’s a natty cravat.
First Term at Malory Towers - Persian edition
The Persian edition! I don’t know who the adult woman on this cover is, but I really like her boots.
First Term at Malory Towers - Portuguese edition
This Portuguese cover is one of my favourites. Any resemblance to actual characters is accidental, but I like the style.
First Term at Malory Towers - Spanish edition
But this Spanish cover is one of my favourites. Is that meant to be Darrell? Why does she look about eight years old? Who cares, she’s adorable, and I love the minimalism.
I also adore this anime-esque Indonesian cover, and I’m quite sad that (a) I can’t find a larger version and (b) there’s not an entire anime adaptation.

You know what there is, though?  An anime version of The Twins at St Clare’s.  It’s in Japanese, and hasn’t been officially translated into English, but don’t worry, I’m hunting for fansubs.  Likewise the live action (!) German movie (!).  Sorry, make that THREE (!) live action German movies.

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