Yesterday I wrote a story that I called the Toad and the Tigress. It was a short story about a schoolgirl who was caught doing something naughty. I created the characters of two teachers, one who was very demanding and forceful and the other that was much more rounded and clever. I was kept awake all night by this second character and I decided to write some more about her. Her name is Miss Huntley and she is the headmistress of a rather old-fashioned girls school called Ashcroft Hall.
Please read my story – The Toad and the Tigress, this story continues where that one left off. https://wp.me/p9J3l0-8f
After Miss Huntley had retrieved the poor terrified toad and taken it back to its tank in the science lab, she helped Mrs Jameson down from her desk, where she had taken refuge.
“Never mind Beatrice, we all have our little phobias. Have some tea, with a tot of brandy in it, that should buck you up again.”
“Thank you Headmistress. I hate those slimy things, where did it come from?”
“That was the prank that you thwarted. Cathy Pargeter blackmailed poor Kelly-Anne into placing that toad in Mrs Beacham’s desk. Unfortunately it fell out of her pocket when you were talking to her. I have got to the bottom of it, and now it’s time for some punishment. I’ll depend on you to help me mete it out.”
“So that’s what it was all about. Yes Headmistress you can count on me to come down very hard. “
“I never doubted it Beatrice.”
Returning to her room, Miss Huntley set the next part of her plan into action and summoned Miss Cartwright and Mrs Beacham in to see her.
“Thank you for coming so promptly, I hope it wasn’t too much of a disturbance for your classes.”
Miss Cartwright was tall and willowy with long straight chestnut hair that she left free and untied. She always seemed to be wearing brown. Today, it was a long brown skirt with a white blouse and brown cardigan. She was an excellent teacher though.
“No trouble at all, I’ve got them reading the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, that’ll keep them going for a while.” Said Miss Cartwright in her usual soft voice.
Mrs Beacham was a round, pink-faced, blond-haired lady encased in a yellow flowery frock. She had the outward appearance of being all pink and fluffy, but she had a solid core. She was more of a disciplinarian that Miss Cartwright, but just as good a teacher.
“I’ve got my lot onto algebra. Should keep them quiet for a time. What was it you wanted Headmistress?”
“I have uncovered a little prank that I think has rather a nasty undercurrent. Jessica, you teach Cathy Pargeter, Joan Langley and Alicia Spink don’t you? And Felicity you teach Kelly-Anne Thomas. Tell me your opinion of them please.”
Felicity Cartwright spoke first. “Kelly-Anne is a timid girl, easily lead and highly strung, I can’t imagine her doing something really bad.”
Jessica Beacham continued “Well Joan Langley is like that too. She latches onto more outgoing girls for their protection, she’d be a prime target for bullies. She isn’t as bright as the other two you mentioned. Now Alicia Spink is very forward and outspoken. She has the loudest mouth, often a sign of being less of a thinker. She might be in the thick of trouble but unlikely to be the brains behind it. On the other hand, Cathy Pargeter is one of those brainy people who can plan something, then get others to carry it out.”
“Well you’ve hit the nail on the head with that Jessica. Tell me, why did you put those three in detention?”
“I caught them cheating in a test. They had been passing their answers around to each other, but none of them knew the capital of Turkey, They’d all put down Constantinople, which of course isn’t what we now call that city anyway.”
“Well I am going to make an example of all of them. Joan Langley is going to go into the year below. Her birthday is in August and she is behind anyway. She will see it as a punishment, as intended, but it may be a blessing for her in the long run. I am going to transfer Alicia Spink into your class Felicity, I hope that’s all right with you. Have you got a bright girl that we can give to Jessica? Otherwise she will be down three.”
“Yes Gloria Baker is one of my brightest, she’s already read all of Byron’s poems.”
“She’s one of our scholarship girls isn’t she?”
“Yes her parents work in the biscuit factory, but she is awfully bright.”
“Excellent, think you can give her some stretch Jessica?”
“Definitely, we are starting Keats next term, that will stretch her alright.”
“Very good Ladies. I will be removing Cathy Pargeter altogether. I am going to speak to her father and then, depending on that meeting, either ask her to leave altogether, or give Beatrice Jameson a free hand with her. You can go back to your classes now. Jessica please send those three in to me will you?”
As they turned to leave Miss Huntley asked another question.
“Tell me Jessica, do you like toads?”
“Yes Headmistress I’m rather fond of amphibians in general.”
“So if you opened a draw and one popped out, it wouldn’t faze you?”
“No, not at all. Why?”
“Oh, no reason, off you go.”
About 15 minutes later the unholy trio came into the Headmistresses office. Three chairs had been arranged in front of the desk.
“Please sit down girls, I want to have a word with you.”
The three sat down, Alicia Spink in the middle and flanked by Cathy Pargeter on her right and Joan Langley on her left.
“I just have to speak to my secretary for a minute. Just sit there and think about what you have done and don’t touch anything.”
When Miss Huntley had left the room Alicia Spink immediately spoke up.
“What do you think the old bag knows Cathy? She can’t know about that Toad, can she? We put the frighteners on Kelly-Anne alright, she wouldn’t tell on us surely?”
Cathy replied tersely “Keep your mouth shut Alicia, she can’t know much. If she did tell, it’s her word against ours. Just deny everything. What did you do with the homework book Alicia?”
“It’s still in my locker, shall I dump it somewhere?”
“No, take it home and burn it, that’ll teach the little runt not to mess with us. Now remember keep quiet. Joan, you’re good at turning on the old water works, cry your eyes out if she gets close to the truth.”
In the next room Miss Huntley sat with her secretary listening to the intercom that she had left on. No one ever thought about the intercom. It was one of her most useful tricks.
Smiling to herself, she turned to speak to her secretary.
“Ethel, take the master key and retrieve that homework book from Alicia Spink’s locker and bring it in to me in, say, about ten minutes, no need to rush.”
Miss Huntley returned to her desk and gave the girls her best stare. Looking at each of them intensely. Neither Joan or Alicia could look her in the eye. It was not always a sign of guilt, but in this case it was. Cathy Pargeter looked back at her undaunted. Her green eyes didn’t blink. That was a worrying indication. It said to Miss Huntley that not only was Cathy Pargeter guilty as hell, she was also completely lacking in guilt or shame. This was a very dangerous young lady. Miss Huntley had dealt with other dangerous young ladies in her time, this was not the first. All will now depend on speaking to the girls father.
“So what can you tell me about a certain little toad?” Miss Huntley asked calmly.
“Nothing Mam, we don’t know anything about a toad.” Said Alicia, rather unconvincingly, as she appeared to be addressing the floor in front of her.
“Really, nothing at all? What about a homework book? Can you tell me anything about that?” Miss Huntley probed further.
Joan Langley started crying, or at least making the right noises.
“What are you making those noises for Miss Langley? Is there something you want to tell me?”
“We really don’t know anything about this Miss Huntley and I must protest that you are upsetting poor Joan.” Said Cathy, speaking for the first time.
“I see. That is how we are going to play it? Is it?” Said Miss Huntley, without a break in her façade.
“Miss Huntley, I will speak to my father about this.” Cathy threatened.
The door then opened and in walked Ethel with Kelly-Anne’s homework book and placed it on the desk in front of the Headmistress.
“Thank you Ethel, you may go now.”
“Hey! That was in my locker, you don’t have the right to go into my locker!” Shouted Alicia indignantly.
“Oh but it isn’t your locker Miss Spink, it is the schools locker and I had reason to suspect I would find this in there. You see I know everything; there is absolutely no use in denying it. Miss Spink you will go back to your desk and pack your things you are moving to Miss Cartwright’s class. You will also be staying in at lunchtimes for the remainder of term. Miss Langley, you too will be kept in at lunch, but you will also be repeating the year. Go and report to Miss Henry. I will be writing to your parents to inform them of my decision. You may go now.”
The two girls left the room, in a bit of a rush.
“As for you Miss Pargeter, you mentioned your father, who I am well aware is our Member of Parliament. I will be arranging a meeting with him myself. Until that meeting you will remove yourself from my school. You will remain suspended until I have decided otherwise. Now get out of my sight.”
Miss Huntley did take some pleasure from seeing the colour drain from Cathy Pargeter’s face before she left. She wouldn’t have been human if she didn’t.
“Now comes the most tedious part of the whole thing. I will have to speak to that odious bore, the Right Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr Bernard Pargeter. This job does have its down side.” Sighing to herself, Miss Huntley picked up the telephone to dial and arrange the meeting.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 09/April/2018
via Daily Prompt: Rush