Chapter Nine: Operation Beat Mariah.
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“We can’t beat her.” Jo said.

It was Thursday morning recess and it was the first chance I’d had to sit down with Henri and Jo together to discuss my plan. I’d gathered them into a quiet corner of the garden as soon as Geography had finished and I was now trying to explain it.

“None of us is good enough.” Henri agreed. “Don’t get me wrong, if one of us could become dux of the class then that would be wonderful—”
“Not to mention the best way of slapping Mariah I’ve ever heard.” Jo put in.
“Yes, but she’s first in every lesson of every class, how can you take that away from her? I’m all for pranks and larks but if you’re talking about anything immoral… well, I’m not sneaking tests out of teachers draws.”
“No, nothing like that! I’ve got more moral fiber than that!” We all giggled thinking of Lady D-Winter’s comments the day before. “But think about it, we don’t need to make one of us dux. All we need to do is ensure that in each class someone else comes first.”
“Well it won’t be me coming first!” Jo said. “I don’t mind so much, but it would be nice to put Mariah in her place a bit!”
“And why not? What are you best at, Jo?”
“Nature studies.”
“Jolly good from what I’ve seen. You can answer anything I want to know. If you were more confidant and volunteered answers on our nature walks I’m sure you’d get them right.”

“But we’re not marked on that, we’re marked on our book work.” Jo said. “Whereupon I spell every other word wrong and draw my silvercrest ferns to look like heartleaf and even though I try to make the caption clear I get told to take more care over my work.”
“Henri can help you with the drawings, and if you write everything out before hand I can correct your spelling for you.”

“Is that— would you— is that allowed?” Jo looked from me to Henri and back again.
“I don’t think it’s against any school rule.” Henri said slowly. “We can’t have another girl do our work for us but we’re encouraged to work together.”
“And it will still be your own work.” I said. “So that’s Jo for nature studies. Whose next?”

“I can do art— maybe.” Henri offered. “I can ask, anyway.”
“Marjorie, you mean?” Jo asked.
“She might help me after hours. She won’t go for first herself, but between you two and me I rather think she’d like to see her beaten.”
“Why not try to encourage her to just do her best?” I asked. “I’m sure she’d beat Mariah and WE’LL still be friends with her.”
“Bobbie, Marjorie can’t just choose not to be friends with Mariah.” Henri said.
“Why not?”
“To start with their mothers are very close. The met when Mariah’s mother did a year as a missionary in Freedonia and have kept in touch ever since.”
“My mother did that.” Jo said. “Back then after finishing school nice young girls did a year bringing good to the far reaches of the world. She was to spend a year in Ghana.”

“Your mother spent a year in Ghana?” Henri sounded surprised by the distraction.
“No. She met a nice young man over there doing the exact same thing. Turns out they had grown up a few streets away from one another but had never met. She’d been there two months and next thing you know they get married and come back home— yes, in that order. It caused quite a scandal with rumors and gossip until my eldest brother was born ten months after the wedding.”
“So their mothers are close…” I prompted Henri.
“Sorry. Yes. Marjorie lives with Mariah in the school holidays and Mariah’s parents oversee her affairs while she’s here. Then, if that wasn’t enough, Mariah’s father owns the company Marjorie’s father works for.”
“I had no idea.” Jo said.
“She told me everything last night.”

“Poor Marjorie.” I said. “That is much worse than having to be polite once a week to society ladies who pinch your cheeks.”
“Well I wouldn’t be fiends with anyone I didn’t want to… oh don’t look at me like that Henri! Yes, she’s in a fix, but will she help you with your art?”
“I think so. Bobbie, you’re next. I think you’re almost a match with Mariah at spelling.”
“I am when we spell out loud. Only the written tests I get marked down because you make some of your letters differently to the way we do in the Highlands and it looks like I’ve spelled words wrong when I haven’t.”
“I can help you with that.” Jo said with a big grin on her face. “I’ve still got all my old handwriting books, I’ve been meaning to go through them but I never find the time. They’ll teach you how to form your letters our way.”
“That would be very helpful! Than you Jo.”
“And if both of you help me manage my time I can beat Mariah at sewing, hands down!”
“Really?” Henri asked.

“Yes, I’ve very good you know.” I smiled to see Jo so confidant of her abilities. “I can make mends so neat you can’t see them and I can usually tell if a pattern will fit or not by looking at it. I do have five brothers, you know. Things need to be mended before mother finds out. Only all my other lessons take so much of my time my sewing always gets left to the end and rushed through.”
“And then you get a black mark for having your light on after lights out so you can sew.” Henri smiles at the memory.

We spent the rest of our recess discussing our strengths and weaknesses and assembled quite a list. All too soon we were interrupted by the bell to return to class and we all leapt to our feet.
“Here’s to operation beat Mariah!” I cheered.

“Lets make a pact.” Jo said.
“A pact?” I asked.
“Yes, everyone put your hands out like this.” Jo put her hand our and we all followed suit.
“Now, I swear to do everything in my power—”
“So long as it’s not immoral or against the school rules—” Henri put in.
“Yes, so long as it’s not immoral, to beat Mariah and put her down and thus saving our darling Bobbie from boxing her ears!” Henri and I giggled. “This is serious!” Bobbie scolded.
“I swear.” Henri said, stifling her laughter.
“Me too. Uh— I mean, I swear.”

And underneath the trees in the garden we made our pledge.
“Now we better fly off to class!” Henri said. “Getting a black mark for being late is not a good start!”
So off we ran

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