Cat Among the Pigeons

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Authors: Agatha Christie
use makeup discreetly and to wear clothes suitable to their stage of growth. I suggest that you wear your brassière when you are dressed for a party or for going to London, but not every day here. We do a good deal of sports and games here and for that your body needs to be free to move easily.”
    â€œIt is too much—all this running and jumping,” said Shaista sulkily, “and the P.T. I do not like Miss Springer—she always says, ‘Faster, faster, do not slack.’ I get tired.”
    â€œThat will do, Shaista,” said Miss Bulstrode, her voice becoming authoritative. “Your family has sent you here to learn English ways. All this exercise will be very good for your complexion, and for developing your bust.”
    Dismissing Shaista, she smiled at the agitated Miss Johnson.
    â€œIt’s quite true,” she said. “The girl is fully mature. She might easily be over twenty by the look of her. And that is what she feels like. You can’t expect her to feel the same age as Julia Upjohn, for instance. Intellectually Julia is far ahead of Shaista. Physically, she could quite well wear a liberty bodice still.”
    â€œI wish they were all like Julia Upjohn,” said Miss Johnson.
    â€œI don’t,” said Miss Bulstrode briskly. “A schoolful of girls all alike would be very dull.”
    Dull, she thought, as she went back to her marking of Scriptureessays. That word had been repeating itself in her brain for some time now. Dull ….
    If there was one thing her school was not, it was dull. During her career as its headmistress, she herself had never felt dull. There had been difficulties to combat, unforeseen crises, irritations with parents, with children: domestic upheavals. She had met and dealt with incipient disasters and turned them into triumphs. It had all been stimulating, exciting, supremely worthwhile. And even now, though she had made up her mind to it, she did not want to go.
    She was physically in excellent health, almost as tough as when she and Chaddy (faithful Chaddy!) had started the great enterprise with a mere handful of children and backing from a banker of unusual foresight. Chaddy’s academic distinctions had been better than hers, but it was she who had had the vision to plan and make of the school a place of such distinction that it was known all over Europe. She had never been afraid to experiment, whereas Chaddy had been content to teach soundly but unexcitingly what she knew. Chaddy’s supreme achievement had always been to be there, at hand, the faithful buffer, quick to render assistance when assistance was needed. As on the opening day of term with Lady Veronica. It was on her solidity, Miss Bulstrode reflected, that an exciting edifice had been built.
    Well, from the material point of view, both women had done very well out of it. If they retired now, they would both have a good assured income for the rest of their lives. Miss Bulstrode wondered if Chaddy would want to retire when she herself did? Probably not. Probably, to her, the school was home. She would continue, faithful and reliable, to buttress up Miss Bulstrode’s successor.
    Because Miss Bulstrode had made up her mind—a successor there must be. Firstly associated with herself in joint rule and then to rule alone. To know when to go—that was one of the great necessities of life. To go before one’s powers began to fail, one’s sure grip to loosen, before one felt the faint staleness, the unwillingness to envisage continuing effort.
    Miss Bulstrode finished marking the essays and noted that the Upjohn child had an original mind. Jennifer Sutcliffe had a complete lack of imagination, but showed an unusually sound grasp of facts. Mary Vyse, of course, was scholarship class—a wonderful retentive memory. But what a dull girl! Dull—that word again. Miss Bulstrode dismissed it from her mind and rang for her secretary.
    She began to dictate

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