This should really be titled Miss Grayling’s Ladies, I suppose, but as all the other parts have girls in the title I stuck with consistency and not accuracy! Previous parts, about the various girls that attend Malory Towers, can be found here.
First form mistress, and head of North Tower, Miss Potts has to be Miss Grayling’s most helpful staff member.
She is always in charge of the new girls when they get the train to Malory Towers.
A keen-faced mistress. This must be Miss Potts. Her eyes twinkled – but there was something determined about her mouth. It wouldn’t do to get into her bad books.
Although named Potty by the girls she is anything but. She sizes up all the girls that pass through her care very quickly, and she’s almost always right about them.
She had already sized [Gwendoline] up and knew her to be a spoilt, only child, selfish and difficult to handle at first.
A nice, straightforward, trustable girl. [Darrell] can be a bit of a monkey, I should think. She looks as if she has good brains, I’ll see that she uses them.
She sees through malingerers like Gwendoline, suck-ups like Daphne, and as she knows the girls better, often discusses their progress with Miss Grayling and offers sound opinions.
She has wise advice for her students too,
Work hard this term, and you’ll find the exams easy. But slack this term, and I can promise you I shall hear some groans and grumbles next term!
When Darrell goes to her at the end of her first term, she has some very good advice;
You have come to ask me how it is that you are nearer the bottom than the top when you could so easily be among the top ones? There are people like Alicia who can play the fool in class and waste their time and everyone else’s, and yet still come out well in their work. And there are people like you, who can also play the fool and waste their time – but unfortunately it affects their work and they slide down to the bottom…
I shouldn’t copy Alicia and Betty too much if I were you, Darrell. You will be a finer character if you go along on your own, than if you copy other people. You see, what you do, you do whole heartedly – so if you play the fool, naturally other things will suffer. Alicia is able to do two or three things quite well at one and the same time. That certainly has its points – but the best people in this world are the whole-hearted ones, if they can only make for the right things.
Later she makes the hard decision to demote Darrell as head of the Upper Fourth, after she shakes June in a rage. While she knows that June’s owning up to being at the midnight feast is most likely not out of any sense of moral obligation (I am inclined to take your ‘owning up’ with a pinch of salt), she knows that Darrell cannot remain in position.
If you can’t control yourself, Darrell, you certainly can’t control others.
She sees through almost every trick instantly, so much so that the girls rarely dare to play any on her. She can even tell if there’s a trick being played on the unsuspecting Mam’zelle Dupont in the next classroom, and regularly bursts in to sort it all out. When Alicia is claiming to be deaf, and all the girls are repeating Mam’zelles instructions at top volume it’s Miss Potts who immediately deduces that Alicia is playing a trick. When she really is deafened by water in her ears she makes Alicia sit at the front of the class with this excellent reasoning;
If you are not deaf, but playing a trick, it would be best to have you out her under my eye. If you are deaf and can’t hear in the back row, then it is only common sense that you should be placed out here where you can.
Despite being hard on trouble-makers she can’t abide sneaks.
Are you trying to sneak? Or in more polite language, to tell tales? Because if so, don’t try it on me. At the boarding school I went to, Gwendoline, we had a very good punishment for sneaks. All the girls in the sneak’s dormy gave her one good spank with the back of a hair-brush. You may have a lot of interesting things to tell me but it’s no use expecting me to listen. I wonder if the girls here have the same punishment for sneaks. I must ask them.
However she is sensible enough to know the difference between telling tales and reporting.
Funny sort of head-girl you are, Jean, not to have reported that Mavis was not in the dormitory last night. Very remiss of you. There are times when you have to make a distinction between telling tales and reporting.
It is Miss Potts who uncovers the poison-pen campaign in In the Fifth, and speaks to Moira as well as Darrell and Sally, to work out who is behind it and deal with them. Inadvertently she then discovers that the culprit is June. She sends for June straight away and gives her a serious talking to.
There is a girl in the first form who is guilty of something for which in later years she could be sent to prison… because it is only depraved and cowardly characters who attempt this underhand, stab-in-the-dark kind of thing.
We call this kind of thing ‘poison-pen’ writing, when the writers are grown up, and they are held in universal loathing and hatred, considered to be the lowest of the low.
I would not talk to you in this serious manner if there were not also other things I dislike very much in you. Your disobedience, your defiance, your aggressiveness, your total lack of respect for anyone. You may think it is admirable and brave and grand. It isn’t. It is the sign of a strong character gone wrong.
June’s knees were shaking. Miss Potts saw them but she took no notice. If ever anyone wanted a good shaking up it was June.
She then takes June to Miss Grayling, for the head to decide whether or not she will be expelled.
She has a deeply buried sense of humour, I think. She comes across quite wry at times.
You’ll probably find the speeches make at the opening of the first term at Malory Towers in you look a little further into your desk.
She says she’s not teasing Mam’zelle, but she surely is.
The third form mistress, Miss Peters is tall and mannish, with very short hair and a deep voice. She has a hearty laugh and hearty manner, and she often treats girls as if they were boys, which they dislike a bit. At the start of Darrell’s third year she is determined to make Mavis – Darrell’s classmate – a good third-former instead of just a good singer. She doesn’t exactly achieve that herself, but it does happen.
She is considerate enough to recognise that Zerelda will find it difficult to move from the fourth to third form part way through the term.
She dislikes day-dreamers in her class and has several run-ins with Bill who just can’t stop daydreaming about her horse, Thunder. Miss Peters is actually a very horsey person herself, and shows a much softer side when checking on the equine members of the school. She comes down hard on Bill after a time and starts banning her from seeing Thunder until work has been handed in. After a week of Bill not seeing Thunder she is quite concerned at the lack of complaint.
A suspicion came into [her] mind. Was Bill being disobedient? Surely not. Disobedience was not something that [she] had to deal with very often. Girls rarely dared to disobey even her slightest word. She was noted for good discipline.
She spoke about it to Miss Potts. “I’m puzzled about Wilhelmina. I can’t make her out. She is such a terrible dreamer, and yet she looks such a sensible, hard-headed little thing!”
She explains how she has punished Bill by stopping her seeing thunder, but Miss Potts reveals that Bill has been to see Thunder just the day before.
‘The untrustworthy, disobedient little monkey! If I catch her disobeying I shall insist that the horse is sent back to her home.’ [She] really was very angry. She never could bear to be disobeyed.
She’s absolutely furious with Bill and stews about it all day. She’s even more furious to discover that Bill has disobeyed her again that evening. She comes down hard on Bill and tells her that she is going to have Thunder sent home. She also has some hard words for Darrell who had gone to try to warn Bill.
That night, though, Thunder is ill and Darrell has to go raise Miss Peters for help. Miss Peters leaps out of bed and dresses, rushing out to Bill and Thunder’s assistance. She has already called the vet that day as she was concerned, but when she calls back he is out on a call where there is no telephone. Having instructed the girls to get wrapped up warmly and walk Thunder up and down the courtyard, she rides off into the dark, pouring night to fetch the vet. As Darrell says People are decent underneath!
On her way back she finds Mavis collapsed by the road and they bring her back to matron, and she half-drags her up the stairs to the san while the vet goes to the stables. After all that she stays up all night with Thunder to ensure he is cared for.
Bill turns over a new leaf as a result of Miss Peters heroic acts, Mavis has pneumonia but could easily have been dead, and all the girls end up with a new respect for their teacher.
Miss Williams features in two books. In Third Form she is Zerelda’s teacher to start with, and then she has Darrell and co when they reach the Upper Fourth. She is described as scholarly and prim, quite kindly but not without discipline.
I feel a bit sorry for her, teaching the fourth form every year and so having to coach girls for the school cert over and over!
Miss Williams was a fine teacher, and was quite determined to have excellent results in the School Certificate exam.
She seems to have more of a sense of humour than some of her colleagues;
Miss Williams looked silently up at the ceiling. Her sharp eyes saw the three flat pellets there… [her] lips twitched. She didn’t know what the girls had done, nor exactly what the trick consisted of – but she couldn’t help feeling that it was very ingenious – yes, and very funny, too, especially when played on someone like poor Mam’zelle Dupont, who could always be relied on to take fright at anything unusual.
She resolves the issue by telling Mam’zelle to take her class outside for the rest of the lesson, and have the housemaid sweep the ceiling. She doesn’t however, explain why leaving poor Mam’zelle quite baffled!
She does get very cross, though, when a host of girls keep coming to visit the fourth form classroom after that, and puts a broom by the door, threatening to make them all sweep the ceiling six times. Which isn’t as easy as it looks!
She is sensible, and kind, enough to see the girls are working themselves a bit too hard and are in need of a break. She suggests they go off for an all-day picnic and slack off for a bit.
Of course the year before, she has to deal with Zerelda and doesn’t come across so well at first. She mistakes Zerelda for a teacher first of all, and looks a bit foolish in her surprise at discovering she’s a fourth-former (surely her uniform would be a dead give-away?).
Zerelda, I can’t have you in my class like this. Take down that roll of hair. Tie it all back. Clean your lips. Come back to the room in five minutes.
She takes charge after a moment, but when Zerelda reappears Miss Williams has forgotten about her and looks a trifle silly again. When she realises that Zerelda is very far behind the rest of the form she offers extra coaching, but also tells her she will have to work a lot harder.
Try to give your attention to your school work and not – er – quite so much attention to your face, shall we say – and nails – and hair?
Zerelda, unfortunately, doesn’t catch up, so Miss Williams goes to Miss Grayling.
Zerelda Brass isn’t up to the fourth form. She’s making them furious because of the order-marks she’s getting. The trouble is they know what a lot of time she wastes over her appearance, and they think if she gave a bit more time to her work, it would be better all round. I’ve told her this myself, of course. I don’t think she’s a bad girl at all – only silly and brought up with quite the wrong ideas. What are we to do?
Miss Grayling suggests extra coaching, but Miss Williams doesn’t think that will work. In the end Miss Grayling decides that Zerelda must go down to the third form. Miss Williams is quite relieved not to have to worry about Zerelda any more, and knows it will benefit the rest of her form too.
Darrell goes to Miss Williams when Ruth confides that she has been the one playing tricks on her twin, Connie, and that Connie has asked her to deliberately fail her school cert so that they can stay in the same form. In turn Miss Williams confides in Darrell that Ruth has likely scraped a pass,
[Moving into a different form] will give Ruth a chance to stand on her own two feet and develop a personality of her own, instead of being Connie’s shadow – and Connie will have to stop domineering over her – it will all disappear naturally and gradually, which is the best thing that could happen.
[Admitting to Connie that she played the tricks on her] will be Ruth’s business, and no concern of anyone else’s. Some day, she may choose to confess to Connie – and perhaps they will even laugh at it all.
She compliments Darrell;
I think that it was very clever of you to find this out. And you have acted very wisely I do really feel very pleased with you.
and asks her to keep an eye on Ruth for the rest of the term too, then promotes her back to head of the form. She doesn’t say it is because of the Ruth and Connie affair, but that’s what Darrell believes was the reason.
Next post: Miss Grayling’s Girls: The rest of her teachers