“This is the moment you’ve been waiting for,” Miss Edison whispered.
The whole class were absolutely silent. New teachers could be unpredictable; and certainly not one of them had seen Miss Edison before. They would have remembered surely; a woman who towered so high above even the tallest; the grey dress that swung and rippled and seemed to hang from empty shoulders; that cap of grey hair like smooth velvet above a long and startlingly pale face. They knew she was called Miss Edison as it was printed on the board behind her in vast white letters that stretched from end to end. No one dared say anything – not even Ben Summers, the class bad-boy; not even Lydia Hale, for whom talking was like breathing. Such was the strange power in Miss Edison’s ghost-grey eyes.
“This is your last year,” she continued, still in the same low voice. Tom Gregory, always clumsy, managed to drop his sharpener which bounced and skittered over the wooden floor. Miss Edison shot a glance in his direction and he wilted in his chair, his face as red as his school sweater.
“Your last chance to get things RIGHT!” she concluded suddenly, ending with a shout so loud Lewis Jameson and Anna Vaughan almost wet their pants with fright, while the rest of the class quailed and trembled like river-rushes in a breeze.
“I know,” Miss Edison said in sepulchral tones, her voice chilling and the class all felt as if her eyes penetrated their darkest, most hidden thoughts. “You have not done your best. I know that you can work harder. HARDER! You, Ellen Thornton!” she pointed with a finger as thin as a bone and Ellen quaked beneath its terrifying aspect. “Ellen; I KNOW you only did two hours work on your project on the Egyptians.” Her finger travelled the room searching out the shivering, wretched children, who stared at it like rabbits caught in the headlights of a Monster Truck. “Suresh Advani; I KNOW you spend all your maths lessons doodling Spiderman pictures in the margins! Charlotte Mason; I KNOW you spend at least an hour a day daydreaming! Matilda Pesticcio; I KNOW you only revised for one hour for that spelling test! Edward Yu; I KNOW you can’t keep still for more than half an hour!”
Miss Edison placed both her long pale hands on the desk and swelled her empty shoulders until they met her ears and she seemed to hover above them like a giant grey crow.
“THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” she roared, and all the children jumped as if they had been simultaneously shot by twenty-five air-gun pellets.
“THIS WILL END NOW!”
“This disgraceful behaviour will not continue while you are in my class. You will all do your utmost. Your UTMOST! You will not laze or shirk your sums. You will not say; I can do this tomorrow. You will not daydream or doodle or fidget. IS THAT CLEAR!”
“I SAID IS THAT CLEAR!”
The children nodded slowly, mouths wide open, eyes starting out of their heads. Miss Edison smiled; it was not a nice smile.
“You see,” she said softly. “I really do have eyes in the back of my head.”
“6B seemed to have calmed down quite a lot,” observed Miss Marchant to Mr Oliver at break-time.
“Yes,” Mr Oliver agreed. “Miss Edison must be very good. Mrs Appas was telling me about the glowing references she brought with her. But I’ve never heard of any of the places she’s taught. Where’s Diss? Is that somewhere in the North East?”