Second Form at Malory Towers – Chapters 6 and 7

These chapters have more butt action than a Chuck Tingle ebook*, without mentioning bottoms, bums, buttocks or derrieres even once.

* not remotely true, BUT they have more butt action than the rest of Blyton’s entire oevre put together, and Blyton was almost as prolific as Dr Tingle.

Chapter 6: The Invisible Chalk

The school term is well and truly underway, and Alicia’s getting bored. And that means it’s time for some pranking!

Alicia’s pranks in the first book tended towards the “make poor Mam’zelle think she’s losing her mind” end of the spectrum. But for once, it’s Betty driving this train.

“What shall we do?” said Betty, her wicked dark eyes gleaming. “I’ve got some invisible chalk. Have you got anything?”

Department of How On Earth Does Malory Towers Actually Work? — we don’t usually see girls from all four towers sharing a common room, but here, Alicia and Betty are hanging out there, and it’s not considered strange. Maybe it varies depending on year level.

The invisible chalk is “a thick slab of curious pink chalk”. Alicia states the obvious:

“It doesn’t look invisible!”

Betty explains how it works:

“Well, if you rub it on to a chair, it can’t possibly be seen,” said Betty. “And whoever sits down on it makes it warm and it leaves a bright pink patch on a dress or skirt.”

They contemplate using the chalk on Mam’zelle Rougier — I can only assume that Alicia is tired of life and wants to end it all — but Betty suggests that Mr Young, the singing master, is the ideal victim: he will move between the piano chair and the blackboard, giving the girls a good view of his bright pink bum, and the first form will get to share the joke.

[Alicia] and Betty tried out the invisible chalk very carefully, and it was a great success.

For a successful author of mysteries, you’d think Blyton would have more appreciation for suspense!

The chalk does indeed seem to disappear when rubbed on a chair. Then Betty sits down to warm it up. Which raises … questions.

As Betty was sitting solemnly there with Alicia watching her, Gwendoline popped her head in to look for Daphne. She was astonished to see Betty sitting solemnly by herself on a chair, with Alicia a little way off.

Yes, Blyton has just used “solemnly” twice in the same paragraph. In her defence, it’s probably hard to write well when you’re gigglesnorting to yourself.

“What are you doing?” [Gwen] asked curiously. “What’s happening?”

“Nothing,” said Alicia. “Buzz off! Daphne’s not here.”

“But what are you doing?” persisted Gwendoline, suspecting something, though she didn’t know what. “Why is Betty sitting on that uncomfortable chair in the middle of the room like that?”

If I had to share living quarters with Alicia and Betty, I’d probably be in a state of permanent suspicion as well. They’re cut from the same cloth as Fred and George Weasley, except the Weasleys are funnier. Now, if Alicia and Betty could turn Gwen into a canary … actually, no. We’d be in bouncing ferret territory in minutes.

Then Jean, my favourite Forthright Scot, pops in to tell Alicia that Miss Parker is chasing her. She, too, is enchanted by the sight of Betty sitting (solemnly) on a chair in the middle of the room.

Jean looked with interest at Betty sitting all alone in the middle of the common-room.

“Tired?” she asked. Betty scowled. She felt foolish. She wanted to hurl a book at Gwendoline’s silly golden head, but she didn’t dare to get up in case she had a nice chalky pattern on her back.

Backside, Blyton means.

“Paralysed or something, poor thing,” said Gwendoline. “Can’t get up. Or perhaps it’s rheumatism!”

Gwen should be sarcastic and biting more often. But she and Jean get bored, leaving Betty to inspect herself.

She gave a chuckle of delight. She had a brilliant pink pattern on the skirt of her tunic.

Betty and Alicia decide to keep this one to themselves, so as to surprise their classmates. But their inability to concentrate on their prep draws the suspicion of Miss Potts.

Potty knew the signs. She warned Miss Parker. “Those two in your form, Alicia and Betty, are up to something, Miss Parker. Look out tomorrow. You’ll have an unaccountable smell, or a curious noise, or an orgy of book-dropping or something.”

AN ORGY OF BOOK-DROPPING.

(We don’t see that happen in any of Blyton’s books, but it takes place in Jean Ure’s Bossy Boots and nearly gives the victim(s) a heart attack.)

But Miss Parker senses nothing amiss the next day, not even when Betty, who has the duty of prepping the singing room before class, becomes “demure”.

In the course of her preparations, Betty rubs the chalk all over the top of the piano stool — then spins it until it’s too low for Mr Young. He has the delightful habit of twirling himself around until his stool reaches the perfect height — what better way to ensure his butt warms the chalk?

Mr Young, The Only Man At Malory Towers, is “a dapper little man in a well-brushed black suit and a too-high collar”, complete with pointed moustache. I have no idea what this signified in the forties, but I don’t think he’s the object of any adolescent crushes.

But he doesn’t sit down right away, and Alicia is “in agonies of disappointment”. The next person to use the stool will be the dancing mistress’s accompanist, “and she always wore a brightly coloured frock so that the chalk wouldn’t show at all!”

FINALLY, he sits down. He has a new song for the girls to learn, and it’s his practice to play it through a few times before any singing begins. (This is a good practise — it takes about three repetitions for a tune to become familiar, and the more familiar a song is, the more likely the listener is to enjoy it. For effective use of repetition, see Hamilton.)

He plays the song — “Off he started, tumty-tum-ti-tu, his hands flying up and down, and then his voice booming out at the chorus.”

Betty and Alicia exchange a wink, which alone should be grounds for suspension, or at least some kind of house arrest pending a forensic search of their belongings. I’m sure Miss Grayling would authorise a warrant.

AND THEN

Mr Young turned towards the blackboard and picked up a piece of white chalk. At once the girls saw that he was smeared with the brightest imaginable pink at the back!

This whole chapter is an elaborate scheme to encourage a group of impressionable adolescent girls to stare at a man’s arse.

Line art depicting Mr Young rising from his piano, peering over his shoulder at a group of girls. There's a triangle in the centre of his back, between his shoulder blades.
This illustration is from the 1963 edition. You will notice that, instead of having a splotch on his backside, Mr Young has a triangle between his shoulder blades. WHAT KIND OF BOWDLERISED ILLUMINATI NONSENSE IS THIS? How did the children of 1963 not RISE UP IN PROTEST against this shameless misrepresentation of the truth?

Needless to say, giggling ensues. Mr Young is not delighted, throwing the chalk on the floor — but before he can stamp on it, because he is apparently a giant toddler … in walks Miss Grayling.

She’s here with a piano tuner, but she quickly finds herself “eyeing his patch of pink with the utmost astonishment.”

Oh yes. Now the headmistress is staring at the music teacher’s bum.

The giggling has ceased, and Betty and Alicia are feeling rather anxious. Then Miss Grayling, thinking that Mr Young has brushed against something, sends Sally to fetch the clothes brush from the hall. Why is there a clothes brush in the hall? That is just one of the mysteries of Malory Towers.

Mr Young gives us a lovely new mental image, peering over his shoulder, trying to examine his own backside. Is it paint? ON HIS FRESHLY BRUSHED SUIT?

“Oh — only chalk! How in the world did it get there?”

HOW INDEED?


Chapter 7: “Oy!”

Mr Lemming, the piano guy “vigorously brushes” the chalk away — then sits down at the piano. The girls are catching on fast.

And when he stands up, he, too, has pink chalk on his overcoat.

Mr Young seems oddly enthusiastic about this:

“Ah, you have it too!” he cried. “See, Miss Grayling, Mr Lemming has brushed up against something also. I will soon put him right.”

If there was such a thing as Malory Towers porn — thank you in advance for not linking me to the works that no doubt exist — this would be how it begins. (I presume there would also be an orgy of book-dropping.)

Intrigued by this hot singing master on piano tuner action, the girls have the giggles again. Miss Grayling is perplexed, pointing out that Mr Lemming’s coat was fine a few moments ago … and there’s nothing in Malory Towers quite as pink as that chalk.

She inspects the stool minutely, but luckily, the invisible chalk is invisible, and she doesn’t sit down to test it. She takes Mr Lemming, and the lesson resumes.

A modern sketch of Mr Young at his piano, eyes closed as he plays. Behind him is a mirror, enabling us to see the chalk on the stool (and his pants) and a discarded stick of chalk just behind him.
Here’s the delightful Enrique Lorenzo’s take, complete with a discarded stick of chalk on the stool, in case we didn’t get the point. Notice how Mr Young’s “high collar” has become a turtleneck for these timeless illustrations. Would it be weird to learn Spanish purely so I can send a fan letter to Enrique Lorenzo? More or less weird than my having just ordered the first book (in Spanish) just for his art?

Which is to say, Mr Young sits down again. This time, when he gets up, he’s far too pompous to notice that the girls are literally stuffing hankies in their mouths to gag themselves.

“Good morning, young ladies!” And out he went, showing his patch of brilliant colour.

High fives all around for Betty and Alicia, and Betty even remembers to wash the stool ahead of the next class.

Meanwhile … no, I’ll let Blyton tell it:

Meanwhile Mr Young was walking down one of the long corridors, quite unaware of his beautiful decoration. Mam’zelle Dupont happened to come out of a room just behind him, and stared disbelievingly at the extraordinary sight.

She chases after him, exclaiming in a mixture of French and English. Mr Young asks what’s wrong.

Blyton:

“This! This!” said Mam’zelle, and tapped him smartly on the chalk.

BLATANT SEXUAL HARASSMENT. What would Ask A Manager say?

Mr Young agrees, “horrified at being tapped so familiarly by Mam’zelle”. She grabs him by the arm and walks him to a hall-stand, where there’s yet another clothing brush. Are brushes kept lying around Malory Towers in case of emergencies? I mean, I have an arrangement like that at home, but I have an orange cat and a lot of black clothes.

Inappropriate as Mam’zelle is, Mr Young is quite unhappy. In fact, “He was angry and not at all grateful”, and then Blyton uses the adjective “angrily” in the very next sentence, because of course she does. Mr Young goes so far as to shake his fist in Mam’zelle’s face, so now they can both sue Malory Towers for fostering an environment of harassment and intimidation.

The only witness to this exchange is Darrell, who is delighted. In fact, she thinks they should do it again, which is only the worst idea ever. And Alicia knows it, but she’s also flattered by Darrell’s eagerness … so off they go. Invisible Chalk 2: The Chalkening.

Only, they’re doing it that very afternoon.

And it’s Darrell who’s getting the classroom ready. Darrell, who maybe doesn’t always have the best judgement…

“I’ll right ‘OY!'” said Darrell to herself, in glee. “I’ll have to write it backwards, so that it will come off on Mam’zelle the right way round.”

Oh Darrell.

In comes Mam’zelle Dupont, who sits down at once because her tiny feet don’t enjoy standing. I identify more and more with Mam’zelle every day.

To get Mam’zelle out of her chair, Jean makes some silly mistakes at the blackboard. It works:

The class saw her back view at once, and gasped. Written across her tight-fitting skirt in bright pink letters was the word “OY!”

This is not good. It cannot possibly be chalked up — you see what did there? — to happenstance.

The thought of the other mistresses seeing Mam’zelle’s “OY!” really alarmed the form. Miss Parker would certainly not approve. She would consider it most disrespectful.

Not to mention that everyone will be picturing someone sitting down and writing on Mam’zelle’s arse!

Darrell promises to grab Mam’zelle and brush the “dust” off her skirt before she leaves the room, but the class runs late, and Mam’zelle hurries into the first form’s classroom.

And the first-formers had the surprise of their lives when they saw Mam’zelle’s pink “OY!” flashing at them every other minute!

That is really not a sentence that survives without its context.

The first form are highly entertained by all this, and nearly end up having to memorise a hundred lines of French poetry as punishment for their laughter. But they’re smart cookies nonetheless, and brush Mam’zelle down before she leaves.

So the second form are saved — except that Alicia still has Sally Problems:

“I suppose Sally put you up to it. Fine head of form she is!”

“Shut up!” said Darrell, annoyed with herself and everyone else too. “Sally had nothing to do with it. I just didn’t think, that’s all!”

So there.

 

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4 thoughts on “Second Form at Malory Towers – Chapters 6 and 7

    1. No worries, I’ll definitely be continuing. (Ideally, I’d like to cover the whole series, but, um, let’s just take it a book at a time.)

  1. Leo

    Dear Lizz,
    When I was a child (back in the seventies….), I read the Mallory Towers books in Dutch. There the writing on Mam’zelle’s bum was “to let”. Recently I read the book in English, and I wondered what is the meaning of OY (since it’s considered so disrespectful I’m really curious :-). The word is not in my dictionaries, nor I can find it on the internet. Could you help me out please?
    best regards,
    Leo (Netherlands)

    1. Hi Leo!

      I was puzzled by the same thing when I was a kid, but I think the disrespect comes from (a) the impression it gives, that a student was literally writing on a teacher’s rear end, and (b) “oy” is working class slang, equivalent to “hey”. It’s often spelled “oi” these days. Not at all appropriate for girls in Blyton’s class-conscious society.

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