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Mansfield's Short Stories
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The Singing Lesson
With despair--cold, sharp despair--buried deep in her heart like a wicked knife, Miss
Meadows, in cap and gown and carrying a little baton, trod the cold corridors that led to
the music hall. Girls of all ages, rosy from the air, and bubbling over with that gleeful
excitement that comes from running to school on a fine autumn morning, hurried,
skipped, fluttered by; from the hollow class-rooms came a quick drumming of voices; a
bell rang; a voice like a bird cried, "Muriel." And then there came from the staircase a
tremendous knock-knock-knocking. Some one had dropped her dumbbells.
The Science Mistress stopped Miss Meadows.
"Good mor-ning," she cried, in her sweet, affected drawl. "Isn't it cold? It might be win-
Miss Meadows, hugging the knife, stared in hatred at the Science Mistress. Everything
about her was sweet, pale, like honey. You wold not have been surprised to see a bee
caught in the tangles of that yellow hair.
"It is rather sharp," said Miss Meadows, grimly.
The other smiled her sugary smile.
"You look fro-zen," said she. Her blue eyes opened wide; there came a mocking light in
them. (Had she noticed anything?)
"Oh, not quite as bad as that," said Miss Meadows, and she gave the Science Mistress, in
exchange for her smile, a quick grimace and passed on...
Forms Four, Five, and Six were assembled in the music hall. The noise was deafening.
On the platform, by the piano, stood Mary Beazley, Miss Meadows' favourite, who
played accompaniments. She was turning the music stool. When she saw Miss Meadows
she gave a loud, warning "Sh-sh! girls!" and Miss Meadows, her hands thrust in her
sleeves, the baton under her arm, strode down the centre aisle, mounted the steps, turned
sharply, seized the brass music stand, planted it in front of her, and gave two sharp taps
with her baton for silence.
"Silence, please! Immediately!" and, looking at nobody, her glance swept over that sea of
coloured flannel blouses, with bobbing pink faces and hands, quivering butterfly hair-
bows, and music-books outspread. She knew perfectly well what they were thinking.
"Meady is in a wax." Well, let them think it! Her eyelids quivered; she tossed her head,
defying them. What could the thoughts of those creatures matter to some one who stood
there bleeding to death, pierced to the heart, to the heart, by such a letter--