“Yes dear, that is what I am about to discuss, with your parents.” Lady D’Winter looked at me with a disapproving glint in her eyes.
I understood her point instantly; she was talking to my parents, not me and I was to be seen but not heard. But this was me they were talking about! Was I here for six months or was I here for twelve? I looked at my parents but they hadn’t seemed to have noticed, or at least neither of them piped up to say that at home they include me in discussions for which I was present and encouraged me to ask questions. Especially when they were about me! Nor did my parents give me a sympathetic look, it was like they didn’t even notice that my future for a whole year was being discussed around me! I sat back and let them talk it out
“If at the end of her six months here your daughter wishes to stay on, which I’m sure she might, I am more than happy to accommodate this and can keep a place open for her until your return at the end of the summer term. I hope that your young girl might one day be a proud alumni as you are Mrs Hilton. In your letter you mentioned that your daughter would be unable to join you for the summer break, is this still the case?”
“Yes, it is.” Father answered.
“She is more than welcome to stay here, but all the other girls will be going home. Should she be fortunate enough to receive an invitation to one of the girl’s homes for the holidays I am happy to judge the suitability of the girl and be given charge of giving or withholding the permission…”
“Thank you Lady D’Winter, but I give my permission for my daughter to spend the holidays with whatever girl she wishes, provided she has been invited. I am sure all girls at your school are respectable.”
“Oh, of course, thank you Mr Hilton.”
Well, one point to Father! At least I could spend the holidays how I wished… provided I made a friend here… My thoughts trailed off as Lady D’Winter continued.
“The behaviour we expect is what you would expect of any young lady and I am sure no girl would bring the school’s reputation into dispute. Miss Hilton,” I realised she was actually addressing me now and paid attention, “there are detailed rules to ensure you understand what is expected of you, you will find them on your bed upstairs and there is always a copy pinned to the inside of the bedroom doors.” She rung her bell again and Gladys appeared. “Would you send for Miss Luxum.” She said.
“Yes your ladyship.” Gladys bobbed a curtsey and rushed off.
“I’ve sent for one of the young ladies to escort you to your room and help you settle in. Miss Luxum is our star pupil and from a very respectable family, I am sure she would be more than pleased to answer any questions you have, Miss Hilton. Now Captain and Mrs Hilton, I will ask that you give your farewells to your daughter. My time as headmistress has taught me that parents lingering and extended farewells make it harder on the girls.”
“I quite agree.” Father said. “Come here poppet!”
I exchanged my farewells with my parents, I tried to pretend that I hadn’t noticed that Mother’s cheeks were a little damp as the last thing I wanted to do was to cry!
All to soon I was waving to them as they left and then I was alone in the room with my new Headmistress. Not for long, though, because just at this minute a girl entered the palour. She was wearing a beautiful lace dress and I knew her dressmaker as soon as I saw it. Even a wee lass from the colonies such as myself could recognise the most expensive seamstress in the on the continent the moment I saw her work.
“Ah, Mariah, now how are you settling in?” Lady D’Winter ased.
“Very well thank you, Headmistress. I was just finishing putting my drawers in order”
“I am glad to hear that dear. This is our new student, Roberta Hilton. Would you be so kind as to show her to her room and help her settle in? This will be her first term at school and I am sure it will all be very overwhelming for her.”
“Of course, I would be delighted, come along Miss Hilton!”
Before I knew it I found myself following this beautiful girl into the hallway and up the staircase. The prim and proper perfect girl changed out of Lady D’Winter’s presence and she appeared to relax a bit and chattered away.
“We’ve been sorting out our rooms.” She said. “We have to share, isn’t it shocking?”
“Um.. I—” I’d never had to share a room before in my life, having no brothers or sisters, but I thought he point of going to school was to spend time with other young people. Besides, if I had a roommate then at least I’d get to know one person pretty quickly.
“At the school I wanted to go to each young lady had her own room and two maids, lady’s maids mind, they weren’t there to clean or anything, that was the business of the housemaids. If a young lady wished she could bring two from home, unless she was foreign in which case she could only bring one. Of course, Mummy insisted on sending me here, she said a few years with more common folk would help build character. I suppose she’s right and the education here is actually very good. I’ll be going to a top notch finishing school of course, Mummy wouldn’t have anything else and I am so glad.”
I listened to her in silence. Great, a snob, just like I feared I would find. Despite what Elen and Mother told me the tight knot that had been sitting in my stomach all day must have suspected all the girls would be like this. “We can put you in With Josephine,” she continued “I think the two of you will get along very well.”
“Oh, thank you!” I said, glad that Mariah was helping me find a friend here, even though she had made it plain she though my company was beneath her without actually outright saying so. “Is she a nice girl?” I asked as we stopped outside a door
“Oh, well, actually I rather thought she would be a bit of a self esteem boost for you.”
“Whatever do you mean?” I asked.
“Why, I do declare,” Mariah looked me up then down in a way that made me feel very self conscious. Was it my suit?
“She’s even fatter than you are!”
And with that Mariah turned on her heel and made her way down the corridor and went into a room a few doors down. Just as the door was closing I heard a chorus of giggles erupt before they were shut off by it closing.