First Term at Malory Towers – chapters 6: Alicia’s Little Joke

Okay, I’m only doing one chapter here because a lot happens in the next one, and also I got about five hours’ sleep last night, and concentrating isn’t really happening.  STAY TUNED.

I don’t, for the record, hate Alicia.  She’s a charismatic character, and the text isn’t always on her side.  And, at times, she’s genuinely funny.

I just don’t love the way she targets her pranks at Mam’zelle, Wacky Foreigner, or teachers who can’t fight back.  People talk a lot about the Weasley twins as bullies, but while some of their pranks go too far, generally they’re targeted at either their peers, or adult authority figures who are generally so humourless as to be ridiculous, or who have enough sense of humour to appreciate the absurdity, even as they’re taking house points.

Not so with Alicia!  To be honest there comes a point where I don’t understand why Mam’zelle Dupont hasn’t had a nervous breakdown, or at least gone off with Mam’zelle Rougier and the St Clare’s French teacher and formed an Angry Frenchwomen Union.


Darrell had good brains and she had been taught how to use them. She soon found that she could easily do the work of her class, and in such things as composition was ahead of most of the others. She felt pleased.

‘I thought I’d have to work much much harder than at my old school,’ she thought to herself.  ‘But I shan’t! It’s only maths I’m not so good at. I wish I was as good as Irene at maths. She does things in her head that I can’t even do on paper.’

So, after the first week or two, Darrell relaxed a little, and did not worry herself too much about her work. She began to enjoy amusing the class a little, just as Alicia did.

You can imagine Miss Potts’ joy at this development.  DARRELL, YOU ARE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS.

Meanwhile, the money Darrell’s parents are spending on this education: KIND OF POINTLESS, I GUESS.

Betty Hill went much further than Alicia. Darrell sometimes wondered if there was anything she would stop at. There were two mistresses that Betty and Alicia played up to. One was Mam’zelle Dupont, the other was a quiet, gentle mistress who took needlework, and sometimes took prep, time at night. Miss Davies never seemed to realize that Alicia and Betty could play tricks on her. Mam’zelle did realize it, but was taken in all the same.

So basically these girls are sociopaths.  Then we get a highly amusing story about a time Alicia managed to torture Mam’zelle AND a mouse AT THE SAME TIME!

Darrell, being a good lackey, encourages Alicia to perform some kind of hilarious prank.  Alicia draws inspiration from her brothers:

‘Roger pretended to be deaf,’ said Alicia. ‘And everything old Toggles asked him he pretended to hear wrong. When Toggles said “Johns, sit still in your chair!” Roger said “Give you a cheer, sir? Certainly! Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!”‘

See, just pretending to have blocked ears, that’s kind of eh.  Impromptu wordplay?  That, I can get behind.  Usual Alicia-related caveats applying.

Mam’zelle. all unsuspicious of this deep-laid plot, entered the first-form classroom smiling brightly the next morning. It was a beautiful summer day. She had had two letters from home, giving her the news that she had a new little nephew. She had on a new brooch, and had washed her hair the night before. She was feeling in a very good temper.

She beamed round at the class. ‘Ah, my dear girls!” she said. ‘We are going to do some very very good French today, n’est ce pas? We are going to be better than the second form! Even Gwendoline will be able to say her verbs to me without one, single, mistake!’

It’s not specifically mentioned, but I can only assume that this is Monday morning.  Because damn, Mamzelle’s day is about to go downhill!

For starters, her expectations of Gwendoline are way too high.

Gwendoline looked doubtful. Since she had been at Malory Towers her opinion of her governess at home had gone down. Miss Winter didn’t seem to have taught her half the things she ought to have known! On the other hand, thought Gwendoline, she had raved over her hair and blue eyes, she had praised the sweetness of Gwendoline’s temper, and said how graceful she was in all she did. That kind of thing was most enjoyable to a person like Gwendoline. But a little more learning would have been very useful to her at Malory Towers.

I’m not actually convinced of the sweetness of Gwendoline’s temper, but I’m going to assume Miss Winter was well-paid for saying so.

Luckily for Gwen, Alicia’s cue comes up.

‘Alicia! What is wrong with you?’ cried Mam’zelle. ‘Can you not hear?’

‘What do I fear? Why, nothing, Mam’zelle,’ said Alicia, looking slightly surprised. Somebody giggled and then smothered it quickly.

‘Mam’zelle said “Can you not hear?”‘ repeated Betty in a loud voice to Alicia.

‘Beer?’ said Alicia, more astonished, apparently, then ever.

I really do love that whole exchange.  IT GOES ON!

‘Tell me, have you a cold?”

‘No, I’ve no gold, only a ten-shilling note,’ answered Alicia, much to Mam’zelle’s mystification.

‘Mam’zelle said COLD not GOLD,’ explained Darrell at the top of her voice.

‘You know—COLD, the opposite of HOT,” went on Betty, helpfully. ‘Have you a COLD?’

‘HAVE YOU A COLD?’ roared the class, coming in like a well-trained chorus.

‘Oh, COLD! Why don’t you speak clearly, then I should hear you,” said Alica. ‘Yes—I’ve had a cold, of course.’

‘Ah—then it has affected your poor ears.’ said Mam’zelle.

‘How long ago was this cold. Alicia?”

Darrell repeated this question at the top of her voice, followed by Betty.

‘Oh—when did I have it? About two years ago,’ said Alicia.

Sadly, though, Malory Towers’ classrooms aren’t soundproofed, and Miss Potts, taking maths in the room next door, is unmoved by Alicia’s affliction and punishment is threatened.

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