Read an Excerpt
The note said: Someone in this class is a witch. It was written in capital letters in ordinary blue ballpoint, and it had appeared between two of the geography books Mr. Crossley was marking. Anyone could have written it. Mr. Crossley rubbed his ginger moustache unhappily. He looked out over the bowed heads of Class 6B and wondered what to do about it.
He decided not to take the note to the headmistress. It was possibly just a joke, and Miss Cadwallader had no sense of humor to speak of. The person to take it to was the deputy head, Mr. Wentworth. But the difficulty there was that Mr. Wentworth's son was a member of 6B the small boy near the back who looked younger than the rest was Brian Wentworth. No. Mr. Crossley decided to ask the writer of the note to own up. He would explain just what a serious accusation it was and leave the rest to the person's conscience.
Mr. Crossley cleared his throat to speak. Some of 6B looked up hopefully but Mr. Crossley had changed his mind then. It was journal time, and journal time was only to be interrupted for a serious emergency. Larwood House was very strict about that rule. Larwood House was very strict about a lot of things, because it was a boarding school run by the government for witch-orphans and children with other problems. The journals were to help the children with theirproblems. They were supposed to be strictly private. Every day, for half an hour, every pupil had to confide his or her private thoughts to their journals, and nothing else was done until everyone had. Mr. Crossley admired the idea heartily.
But the real reason that Mr. Crossley changed hismind was the awful thought that the note might be true. Someone in 6B could easily be a witch. Only Miss Cadwallader knew who exactly in 6B was a witch-orphan, but Mr. Crossley suspected that a lot of them were. Other classes had given Mr. Crossley feelings of pride and pleasure in being a schoolmaster; 6B never did. Only two of them gave him any pride at all: Theresa Mullett and Simon Silverson. They were both model pupils. The rest of the girls tailed dismally off until you came to empty chatterers like Estelle Green, or that dumpy girl, Nan Pilgrim, who was definitely the odd one out. The boys were divided into groups. Some had the sense to follow Simon Silverson's example, but quite as many clustered round that bad boy Dan Smith, and others again admired that tall Indian boy Nirupam Singh. Or they were loners like Brian Wentworth and that unpleasant boy Charles Morgan.
Here Mr. Crossley looked at Charles Morgan and Charles Morgan looked back, with one of the blank, nasty looks he was famous for. Charles wore glasses, which enlarged the nasty look and trained it on Mr. Crossley like a double laser beam. Mr. Crossley looked away hastily and went back to worrying about the note. Everyone in 6B gave up hoping for anything interesting to happen and went back to their journals.
28 October 1981, Theresa Mullett wrote in round, angelic writing. Mr. Crossley has found a note in our geography books. I thought it might be from Miss Hodge at first, because we all know Teddy is dying for love of her, but be looks so worried that I think it must be from some silly girl like Estelle Green. Nan Pilgrim couldn't get over the vaulting hone again today. She jumped and stuck halfway. It made us all laugh.
Simon Silverson wrote: 28. 10. 81. 1 would like to know who put that note in the geograpby books. It fell out when I was collecting them and I put it back in. If it was found lying about we could all he blamed. This is strictly off the record of course.
I do not know, Niruparn Singh wrote musingly, how anyone manages to write much in their journal, since everyone knows Miss Cadwallader reads them all during the holidays. I do not write my secret thoughts. I will now describe the Indian rope trick which I saw in India before my father came to live in England . . .
Two desks away from Nirupam, Dan Smith chewed his pen a great deal and finally wrote, Well I mean it's not much good if you've got to write your secret fealings, what I mean is it takes all the joy, out of it and you don't know what to write. It means they aren't secret if you see what I mean.I do not think, Estelle Green wrote, that I have any secret feelings today, but I would like to know what is in the note from Miss Hodge that Teddy has just found. I thought she scorned him utterly.
At the back of the room, Brian Wentworth wrote, sighing, Timetables just ran away with me, that is my problem. During geograpby I planned a bus journey from London to Baghdad via Paris. Next lesson I shall plan the same journey via Berlin.
Nan Pilgrim meanwhile was scrawling, This is a message to the person who reads our journals. Are you Miss Cadwallader, or does Miss Cadwallader make Mr. Wentworth do it? She stared at what she had written, rather taken aback at her own daring. This kind of thing happened to her sometimes. Still, she thought, there were hundreds of journals and hundreds of daily entries. The chances of Miss Cadwallader reading this one had to be very small particularly if she went on and made it really boring. I shall now be boring, she wrote. Teddy Crossley's real name is Harold, but he got called Teddy out of the hymn that goes "Gladly my cross I'd bear." But of course every one sings "Crossley my glad-eyed bear."