* * *
“Get down from that wardrobe, Lisa Maison! You’ll fall or break something!” Nellie snapped as she entered Lavender Dormitory, from whence a great noise was emerging. “And the rest of you, quieten down, please!”
“Now,” she said, when order had been restored, “what were you doing?”
“A circus,” Lisa offered brightly.
“Why?” Nellie asked blandly, her eyes like steel. “Where’s your dormitory prefect?”
“Vanna Lisbon has gone for her remedials,” Lisa said.
“Ah, yes. She hurt her foot the other day?”
A few nods confirmed Nellie’s statement.
“Well, since you cannot be trusted alone, I’ll just have to send Adela Belmont in to read to you. At least Thyme Dormitory can be trusted to behave. Two order marks apiece, I think!”
Nellie swept out, leaving her victims suitably dismayed.
“Having a bad time?” Mel Castle snarled from the old orange fouton on the landing, as Nellie closed the door.
“Mel!” Nellie said. “You startled me!”
Mel smiled. “Care to join me in my study for a bit?”
“Sorry, I’m already booked. Anyway I’ve a few little jobs to do first. Ta for the offer.” Nellie swung off to Thyme Dormitory next door.
“She’s not here,” Klipso Mooning returned.
“I am,” Gabriella Hauntingham chimed in.
“No, you should stay here to look after your little dears—and that doesn’t include you, Klippy,” Nellie grinned. “Actually, Klipso, would you like to read a nice story to the lovely children next door in Lavender?”
“Why?” came back the suspicious reply.
“They’ve been playing circus as Vanna Lisbon is having remedials. I gave them two order marks each and told them that they couldn’t be trusted alone, so I’d send someone to read.”
“You can whistle for me and do it yourself,” Klipso began, but Gabriella gave her a warning pinch.
“Oh well.” Nellie forced a smile. “Who else is in here? Sally Gates. Sally, will you do it?”
“Ask Holly Lemons or Adela Belmont; they’re good with kids, unlike me,” Sally suggested.
“That’s the problem,” Nellie retorted, “Then, just to make up for it, won’t you spare ten minutes today helping me with food duty in the Pet Room? Another batch of whatnot canaries has arrived, thanks to those innovate Mahy sisters.”
“Ask Phil Mortimer; she’s good with animals,” Sally said, biting her lip.
“Has no one ever called you lazy?” Nellie said with only a trace of bitterness. She had always liked Sally Gates before. It seemed that the Sixth’s supreme influence had infiltrated right through the school.
Then she vanished, first to Rosemary Dormitory in search of the said Holly Lemons, and then to Edelweiss in search of Philippa. What a joke that she’d visited all four of the Prince Gerald House dormitories that evening, she thought ruefully. Prince Gerald and Queen Esther, her own house, were perpetually involved in an ongoing rivalry for precedence.