Second Form at Malory Towers – Chapter 8

Previously: Alicia and Betty play a trick so nice, they try it twice — with an unwanted twist from Darrell. Alicia, based on no evidence whatsoever, decides that Sally put Darrell up to it.

Just one chapter this week, because I’m trying to get back into that nice, logical odd-even two-chapter post pattern.

Chapter 8: The Term Goes On

Word of the invisible chalk incident(s) gets around the school, and, despite the risk to which she exposed the class, Darrell is receiving a lot of praise and attention for the “oy” she transferred to Mam’zelle’s skirt.

Displeased, Betty and Alicia give Darrell the cold shoulder, and she ignores them in turn. But this apparently isn’t enough for Alicia, who tries to get Darrell’s goat by passive-aggressively badmouthing Sally. Given Darrell’s history of violence when she loses her temper, this seems about as sensible as baiting a lion with a toothache, but that’s why Alicia’s considered the wild, daring one, I guess.

Sally, who has some experience with jealousy, tries to soothe Darrell, but for Darrell, loyalty >>>> common sense:

“Don’t you see that it’s because you’re my friend that I get so wild with Alicia? She could say all she liked about me, I wouldn’t care — but it’s hard to sit and listen to things about you Sally. All because she’s jealous. She just says them because she knows I’ve got a temper and want to stick up for you.”

Alicia and Betty are indeed being pains in the neck:

“Dear Sally!” Alicia would say. “Always so good — and yet so dull. The Perfect Head-Girl. Don’t you think so, Betty?”

“Oh, I do so agree with you. think what a good example to us all — dear, conscientious Sally.”

These conversations go on until Darrell gets up and walks away, which Betty and Alicia count as a reaction and therefore a victory. So Darrell’s just a wee bit cranky right now.

And so is Ellen, the new scholarship girl. Over the last few weeks, it’s become clear that her work isn’t up to the standard of the best in the form, and she’s gone from worried to irritable. Even Sally can’t crack her shell … so she delegates the task to Forthright Jean, my very favourite supporting character.

Jean was a very forthright girl, with little imagination, and usually went at things in the way a tank might, crushing all resistance, insisting on knowing what she wanted to know.


Image: A cartoon of an anxious potato with wide eyes, clenched teeth and nervous sweat.
There are no illustrations for this chapter, so here is a potato emoji that captures Ellen’s mood these days.

But Jean wasn’t chosen for Operation: Ellen at random — she sits beside Ellen in class, and has the bed next to hers. She knows that Ellen is suffering from insomnia and anxiety, although she can’t imagine what might be the source:

It couldn’t be her work, surely — no scholarship girl needed to worry about work! As far as she had seen, all scholarship girls found work very easy indeed.

Jean, we are told, is kind, despite her bluntness, and she knows that a direct approach will just put Ellen off. Instead, she sets out to be quietly nice to her — helping her look for misplaced possessions, offering to run errands. It’s as if Jean has asked herself, What Would Mary-Lou Do?

And it works — slowly she begins to earn Ellen’s trust. But not enough to find out what’s on her mind. And not enough to improve Ellen’s overall temper:

She stopped snapping at Jean, though she still snapped at everyone else — except Mary-Lou. It would need a very hard-hearted, bad-tempered person to snap at little Mary-Lou!

Ellen’s particularly bad at coping with interruptions when she’s reading, and Darrell — speaking of bulls in china shops — helpfully points out that she hasn’t turned a page in ages. Ellen storms out in tears, and we get some interesting unattributed dialogue:

“Isn’t she awful! Scratches like a cat!”

“I wish she’d won a scholarship to anywhere else!”

“Always pretending to read and study, yet she slides down lower every week! Hypocrite, I call her!”

That last one confuses me — why are Ellen’s academic failings perceived as hypocritical? There’s no suggestion, for example, that she cheated on the scholarship exams.

And, of course, we don’t know which girl says that. But we can make a guess. Rule out Sally, who is more fair-minded than that, and Forthright Jean, who has the next line (“Och, she’s not a happy girl!”). It wouldn’t be Darrell, who respects hard work even if it doesn’t produce results. Mary-Lou would never be so cruel. Irene and Belinda are too caught up with their own hobbies to waste time being nasty about their classmates.

Gwen and Daphne are borderline — they might say something like that, but they’re almost too self-absorbed to be so nasty about a girl who has nothing to do with them whatsoever. And, frankly, neither are in a position to criticise a person’s academic results.

Which brings us to Alicia and Betty, who get good marks with very little effort, and who are going through an especially spiteful phase right now. My money is on Alicia.

Meanwhile, it’s been raining too hard for any outdoor activities to take place, and the school is getting a bit stir-crazy. Accordingly, the teachers decide that, rain or not, the girls are going to take a nice, long walk through the rain and mud.

Apparently the weather is so bad that even the heartiest of girls are horrified. And Gwen and Daphne are the most unenthusiastic of all. Gwen tries and fails to persuade Miss Parker that she has a cold. Daphne has a more cunning plan…

Remember how Mam’zelle Dupont offered her extra coaching? Well, Daphne is ready to take up that offer — and she’s willing to heroically give up her walk to get it.

“The good child — to give up the walk that you English girls so dearly love!” cried Mam’zelle, who thought that all walks were a very silly invention.”

want to say that I wholeheartedly agree with Mam’zelle on this topic, but, ummm, it’s possible that my Fitbit will prove that I’m lying. Walks are pretty great — on the other hand, it’s not like the Malory Towers girls will be catching any Pokemon while they’re out.

Daphne for the win! She gives Mam’zelle “a ravishing smile” and departs in triumph.

Image: Cartoon of a charming potato, with a wide smile, stars for eyes and gleaming sparkles.
You definitely can’t say no to this charming potato!

Daphne: 1

Outside activity: 0


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