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TEXT. ANNE MEETS HER GLASS
The children fixed their eyes upon Anne. Anne gazed back, feeling helpless.
"Now, children," began Miss Enderby firmly, "you are very, very lucky this term to have Miss Lacey for your new teacher."
Anne gave a watery smile. The Children's faces were unmoved.
"Miss Lacey," repeated Miss Enderby with emphasis. "Can you say that?"
"Miss Lacey," chorused the class obediently.
"Perhaps you could say 'Good morning' to your new teacher?" suggested Miss Enderby in an imperative tone.
"Good morning. Miss Lacey," came the polite chorus.
"Good morning, children," responded Anne in a voice which bore no resemblance to her own.
Miss Enderby motioned to the children to take their seats. "I should give out paper and coloured pencils," said Miss Enderby, "as soon as you've called the register. Keep them busy while you're finding your way about the cupboards and so on."
She gave a swift look round the class. "I expect you to help Miss Lacey in every way," said the headmistress. "D'you hear me, Arnold?"
The little boy addressed, who had been crossing and uncrossing his eyes in an ugly manner for the enjoyment of his neighbours, looked suitably crest-fallen.
"If I were you, I should keep an eye on that boy," murmured Miss Enderby. "Broken home — brother in Borstal — and some rather dreadful habits!"
Anne looked with fresh interest at Arnold and thought he looked quite different from what Miss Enderby said about him. Far too innocent and apple-cheeked to have such a record. But even as she looked, she saw his pink face express his scorn of Miss Enderby who was giving her final messages to the new teacher.
"Break at ten forty-five, dear," said the headmistress. "Come straight to the staff room. I will wait there till you join us. I will introduce you to those you didn't meet on your first visit How do you like the idea of having a cup of tea then? We need rest after all. If there's anything that puzzles you, I shall be in my room. You can depend on me. Just send a message by one of the children."
She made her way to the door and waited before it, eyebrows raised as she turned her gaze upon the children. They gazed back in some bewilderment
"Is no one going to remember his manners?" asked Miss Enderby.
With a nervous start Anne hastened forward to the door, but was waved back by a movement of her headmistress's hand. A dozen or more children made a rush to open the door. A freckled girl with two skinny red plaits was the first to drag open the door. She was rewarded by a smile.
"Thank you, dear, thank you," said Miss Enderby and sailed majestically into the corridor. There came a faint sigh of relief as the door closed behind her, and the forty-six tongues which had so far kept unnaturally silent began to wag cheerfully. Anne watched this change with some dismay. She remembered with sudden relief some advice given her at college in just such a situation.
"Stand quite still, be quite calm, and gradually the children will become conscious that you are waiting. Never, never attempt to shout them down."
So Anne stood her ground waiting for the chattering to subside. But the noise grew in volume as conversations became more animated. One or two children ran across the room to see their distant friends. Two little boys attacked each other. A child with birthday cards was displaying their beauties to an admiring crowd round her desk. Arnold had removed his blue pullover and was attempting to pull his shirt over his head, in order to show his friends a scar on his shoulderblade.
Amidst growing chaos Anne remained silent. She looked at the clock which jerked from one minute to the next and decided to let it leap once more before she abandoned hope.
One crumb of comfort, if comfort it could be called, remained with her. This was an outburst of natural high spirits. Her presence, she noted, meant nothing at all to them.
A chair fell over, someone yelped with pain, there was a burst of laughter, and Anne saw the clock jump to another minute. Anne advanced into action.
"To your desks!" she roared, "And quickly!"
With a pleasurable shock she saw her words obeyed. Within a minute order had returned. Refreshed by the break the children turned attentive eyes upon her.
Anne's self-esteem crept back.
(From "Fresh from the Country" by Miss Reed)
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