* * *
“It looks good,” Nita remarked.
“Good enough,” Sophie agreed fairly.
They, and all others who were anxious to witness this latest effort of the Lower Fourth, were assembled in the school hall—this comprised of the entire school barring the diligent secretary, Miss Trevor, who had work to be getting on with. The girls chattered excitedly as they awaited the show’s beginning, scouring their programmes and nibbling at sweets when the mistresses’ eyes were averted.
“Let’s see,” another girl, Dav de Count, said, grabbing the programme from Sophie’s fingers and devouring its contents. “The Lower Fourth really have something for us, eh?” she said as she read. “Four scenes before the interval and three after. Quite a show!”
“That set usually do well on their evenings, don’t they?” Nita said.
“Ooh! It’s starting!” someone cried.
It was indeed starting. The thick grey curtains swung back to reveal a picturesque scene of mountainous country, and four young girls clad in old-fashioned pinafores, sprawling at leisurely angles on the ground.
“Oh, what a beautiful morning!” called out the girl with the bushiest eyebrows, raising her palms to Heaven for dramatic effect—and the play had begun!
It had progressed to Scene III without mishap when Nellie, standing at the back by order of her prefectship, heard a tiny squeak of whisper and turned round dazedly. She had been thoroughly enjoying the hilarious antics of Annabell, who was, to quote Chic Masterton, ‘a little bit weak in the head’, and the sharp return to reality confused her. Perhaps she had been expecting to see Annabell herself just behind, or some small animal which would inevitably be part of the act.
“Oh, Nellie! Thank goodness you’re here! Rosemary Lee’s button popped off her skirt and she’s on next in Scene IV. Oh, please help us!” It was little Lisa Maison. “There’s no buttons to spare anywhere, or needle or thread in the dressing room! We’ve looked!” she blurted out sorrowfully. “Do come.”
“I’ll come,” Nellie said warmly. “You pop back and I’ll just nip to my study. I’ve got a pack of buttons and various sewing utensils there. And if I don’t get back, see if you can borrow something—anything.”
“You will get back though, right?”
Nellie smiled at the trusting face of the younger girl. “Of course—but only if you’ll stop detaining me and let me go now as fast as I can.”
While Lisa scuttled off back to the changing rooms, Nellie turned to Mel Castle, who was standing just in front.
“I’m just popping back to my study, Mel.”
Mel’s eyes twitched. “I see.”
Nellie ran all the way to her study, cursing herself for having bothered to tell Mel Castle of her whereabouts. Why did Mel care? Why should anyone care?
She arrived panting. The packet of buttons was in a drawer in her desk along with a crowd of other miscellaneous items. Cramming it into her blazing pocket, she was startled to catch sight of a small sheet of paper polluting her already-untidy desk. Nellie scanned the note as speedily as comparative accuracy would allow, and was confused to read the words:
Come quickly. Lacey Whitt’s gecko is very ill. He’s having convulsions and I think he might die.