Second Form at Malory Towers – Chapters 9 and 10

When we last saw Daphne, she had managed to get out of a long walk in the rain and mud by volunteering for extra French coaching from Mam’zelle Dupont.

Needless to say, her afternoon doesn’t quite go according to plan…

Chapter 9: Daphne is Annoyed

Miss Parker is quite cross when she hears about Daphne’s extra coaching:

“She’s just the type of girl that needs a jolly good long walk — yes, and a muddy one too. Shake some of her airs and graces off her!”

I’m personally on Team Not Walking here, but I can’t quite condone Mam’zelle’s response, which is apparently driven by dislike of Miss Parker “with her big nose”. Stop this anti-nose bigotry!

On the other hand, Mam’zelle’s exaggerated account of Daphne’s Actual Real Desire For The Walk is hilarious:

“Ah, to splash through the autumn lanes! Ah, to sniff the sea air after being cooped up so long!”

And so forth.

Miss Parker remarks that Mam’zelle Rougier wouldn’t be taken in so easily by Daphne’s charm. Mam’zelle takes the bait, and the seeds for the upcoming French Feud are planted. FORESHADOWING.

Of Daphne’s classmates, only Gwen is impressed by Daphne’s strategy. “That’s just like you, somehow, Daphne,” says Darrell critically.

But, when the afternoon comes, the weather has gotten even worse, and the walk is cancelled — after, of course, Daphne has already left for her French lesson.

Instead, the girls spend the afternoon in the gym, enjoying “riotous games” (which rather raises the question of why, if the weather has been so bad, they haven’t been getting to do this all along) followed by an indoor picnic afternoon tea, complete with Blyton’s food staples: “four super chocolate cakes for a treat, as well as two pots of golden honey”. (This was written in the post-WWII rationing era, when sweet foods were limited — wish fulfilment for sugar-deprived readers.)

Mary-Lou realises that Daphne is also missing out on this feast, and offers to go get her. No one is very impressed by this:

Alicia:

“Idiot!” said Alicia, under her breath. “Fancy reminding Miss Parker of Daphne! Serve her right to miss all this! I’ll tell Mary-Lou what I think of her in a minute!”

Miss Parker:

Miss Parker … wondered for the twentieth time why Mary-Lou bothered about Daphne when she had Darrell and Sally for friends.

“Oh, Mary-Lou, no, you mustn’t disturb Daphne!” said Miss Parker, clearly, so that all the listening girls heard. “She badly wanted to have this extra coaching, Mam’zelle tells me, and was quite willing to forego the walk. She would be willing to forego the games and picnic too, I am sure. We mustn’t disturb her. When a girl shows herself to be as studious as that it would be a pity to spoil it all.”

Everyone but Mary-Lou spots Miss Parker’s sarcasm. I’m generally pro-Parker, but something about her reaction doesn’t sit well with me here — it seems unprofessional to show off her personal opinion about one girl in front of the rest.

The girls have a great afternoon, followed by a cheerful inhalation of the four cakes and quite a lot of bread and butter with honey. Poor old Daphne turns up just as the last of the cake disappears.

It turns out that extra coaching with Mam’zelle was not, as she had expected, “a nice cosy time with Mam’zelle, talking about herself”. In fact, she had to do actual work! And for even longer than usual, because Mam’zelle assumed she’d hear the girls come back from their walk … and when she doesn’t, it’s much too late.

…the girl could have burst into tears when she saw the empty plates, the cake all gone, and the happy faces of the second-formers in the gym.

“You mean pigs!” she cried. “You didn’t go out after all! And you’ve had tea without me!”

“We couldn’t disturb you at your extra French lesson,” grinned Alicia. “Dear Miss Parker quite agreed it would be a pity to spoil it for you, as you were so anxious to have it.”

Okay, now I can put my finger on the problem with Miss Parker’s attitude: excluding Daphne from the games was reasonable under the circumstances, but also excluding her from the afternoon tea is essentially giving the nod to deliberate ostracism. Especially since afternoon tea is a normal part of the school’s daily routine. Daphne hasn’t just missed out on a treat, but an opportunity to eat.

Not cool, Miss Parker, not cool.

Daphne is particularly angry that Gwen didn’t bother to fetch her. Sally breaks the news that only Mary-Lou made the attempt.

SHIPPING GOGGLES:

Daphne looked at Mary-Lou and felt warm towards her. Not even Gwendoline, her friend, had tried to get her out of that awful French lesson to join the games. But Mary-Lou had. Mary-Lou had thought loyally of her.

“Thanks, Mary-Lou,” said Daphne, and turned a rather watery smile on her. “I won’t forget that. That was decent of you.”

AND SO THEY BECOME REAL FRIENDS sort of. Daphne now “really liked and admired” Mary-Lou.

And Mary-Lou…

Mary-Lou, of course, was delighted. She had quite fallen under Daphne’s spell, and was too simple to see the faults in the girl’s character. She was very happy to be with her, and delighted to help her whenever she could.

…She was very glad to feel that Daphne really did like her. She often lay in bed thinking of the girl’s beautiful hair and lovely smile.

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Alas, Daphne is still lying — if not to herself, then to Gwen. Gwen is beginning to suspect that Daphne actually likes Mary-Lou, but Daphne reassures her — again — that she’s just using Mary-Lou for her French skills.

But Daphne isn’t completely happy with Gwen, on account of the afternoon of French ‘n’ failure, and Gwen has to up her sycophancy to get back in Daphne’s good books. Sally overhears a truly glorious account of an event that actually really happened in Daphne’s real life:

  • her mother threw a party on their yacht
  • Daphne sat next to “the Prince” (of where? She conveniently doesn’t specify, but Britain was not overloaded with princes of its own in ’47)
  • he told her she had pretty hair
  • then she punched him in the face and it was awesome
  • and she was allowed to stay up until one am

She also lets slip that she was wearing “a frilly frock with little pearls all over it and my pearl necklace.” Said necklace is worth hundreds of pounds, but she’s not allowed to bring anything fancy to school.

Sally is unimpressed:

“It’s a pity your mother didn’t supply you with your own lacrosse stick, and another pair of shoes, and plenty of writing-paper,” she remarked. “Then you wouldn’t have to keep borrowing from everyone else! A little less yacht, and fewer cars — and more envelopes and a book of stamps would be better for you, Daphne.”

This seems way harsh, but ensuring that the girls in her class have sufficient paper and so forth seems to be part of the head girl’s job. Not to mention ensuring that certain obligations are met:

“You are always borrowing from one or other of us — and you never pay back!”

Daphne dismisses Sally’s remarks as jealousy.


Chapter 10: The Two Mam’zelles

WHAT TIME IS IT?

SHOWTIME!

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WAIT, NO, sorry, it’s HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLFFFFF-TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRMMMMM!

Sally and Darrell go out with Darrell’s parents (again — who is looking after Felicity?) and Gwen is disappointed that Daphne’s glamorous parents don’t attend. Daphne keeps a photo of her mother on er dressing table: “a very beautiful woman, in a flowing evening gown, with gleaming jewels round her lovely neck”.

Everyone admires Daphne’s mother, but Darrell, of course, has notes:

“You aren’t much like your mother…” said Darrell, critically, to Daphne. “She’s got wide-set eyes — and yours are rather near together. And your nose isn’t the same.”

Daphne says she takes after her father’s family, and throws in that she has a very beautiful aunt.

GOOD NEWS, FORTHRIGHT JEAN HAS SOMETHING TO SAY!

“And I suppose you are supposed to resemble her, Daphne?” said Jean, in her quiet, amused voice. “What it is to have beautiful and distinguished relatives! I have a plain mother, who’s the kindest darling on earth — and quite an ugly father — and all my aunts are as plain as I am. But I don’t care a bit. They’re jolly good fun, and I like the whole lot.”

JEAN. SHE’S JUST SO DOWN TO EARTH AND SENSIBLE. Time for a crossover headcanon where one of Jean’s aunts is Minerva McGonagall.

Daphne accompanies Gwen on half-term — which backfires, because Miss Winter “can’t take her eyes off her”.

Mrs Lacey is very pleased that Gwen has made friends with the right sort of girl, and is vulgar enough to say so. Poor old Gwen — everyone’s in this to get ahead within the British class system, but the Laceys are the only ones silly enough to make it obvious.

Daphne repays Gwen’s hospitality by playing up her brilliant wit and popularity with the teachers. This is one hundred percent guaranteed to backfire when report cards come out, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s what Daphne is intending — subconsciously if not deliberately.

Meanwhile, Belinda and Irene go out together, “both forgetting their hats and both returning without their gloves”. It turns out that Belinda’s parents are as bad as the girls, getting lost and coming back late — but the arteeeests of the class are oblivious. Bless.

Betty and Alicia spent the day with one of Alicia’s brothers, who has filled them with inspiration re: tricks, pranks and other terrible things.

And DELIGHTFUL JEAN took Ellen out with her — but Ellen wasn’t good company. She didn’t even laugh at Jean’s Dad’s jokes!

Jean, with maybe less tact than was called for, points this out, which sends Ellen off in a teary huff. Ellen is proving to be hard work, and Jean’s running out of energy.

Unfortunately, now that half-term is over, the class has to prepare to perform two French plays for the school. As Alicia says, “Who wants to see us perform French plays?”

The two Mam’zelles have chosen a play each, and no one will be surprised to learn that this has led to conflict. Suffice to say, they have creative differences: Mam’zelle Rougier thinks the lead parts should be played by girls with good French; Mam’zelle Dupont thinks they should both be played by the prettiest girl in the class, which is to say, Daphne.

Image: Illustration depicting the Mam'zelles arguing. Mam'zelle Dupont is delightfully round and feminine; Rougier is appropriately tall and thin, but giant shoulder pads make her posture look strange.

Mam’zelle Rougier goes so far as to accuse Mam’zelle Dupont of favouritism. Mam’zelle D responds by re-enacting everyone’s favourite Arrested Development gif:

“I do not have favourites!” said Mam’zelle Dupont, untruthfully, tapping her foot on the ground. “I like all the girls just the same.”

Earlier that day: “I don’t care for Gwen.”

Mam’zelle D is SHOCKED and OUTRAGED by these accusations.

Favourites, indeed! How dared Mam’zelle say things like that to her! Never would she speak to Mam’zelle Rougier again. Never, never, never! She would leave Malory Towers. She would go back to her beloved France. She would write to the newspapers about it.

Worst of all, Miss Potts is not remotely sympathetic. Mam’zelle responds appropriately and professionally:

“You too are in the plot against me!”

Matron, who interrupts this rant, is “quite stupefied”. Potty, however, is totes chill. She’s seen it all before, man. (Miss Potts is also a secret McGonagall.)

Hilarious as this is, it makes French lessons rather inconvenient, because for some reason, both Mam’zelles take the same classes and seem to teach the same plays instead of dividing them between themselves. The lead roles swap each time, which makes learning the lines even harder.

Despite this, the girls are totally into it — and, despite her poor taste in choosing Daphne for the lead parts, they’re Team Dupont. She’s just, you know, nicer.

And this is where Belinda’s mad art skills come into play: she draws a set of caricatures of Mam’zelle Rougier plotting Mme Dupont’s death. I guess this is the sort of thing that can get a kid expelled these days, or at least sent to counselling, but back then, it was all Jolly Good Fun.

Or at least, it is until someone, ie Alicia, takes it all too far. She proposes that Belinda give Mam’zelle Dupont a glimpse of the sketches, promising that her amusement will be such that they’ll get out of work for the afternoon.

Belinda, whose skills encompass more than drawing, binds her pictures into a book, planning to leave it on the teacher’s desk before class.

Only, there’s something Alicia hasn’t told her: it’s not Mam’zelle Dupont taking the class tomorrow. It’s Mam’zelle Rougier.

Alicia: STILL A TERRIBLE PERSON, THANKS FOR ASKING.

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