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Elizabeth Allen is a spoiled girl who is an only child. She becomes very upset and outraged when she learns that she is being sent to a boarding school. When Elizabeth joins Whyteleafe School she is determined to misbehave so that she will be expelled and able to go back home as soon as possible. She is surprised to find that the children run the school through weekly community meetings, and that her behaviour will be judged by her peers.
171 pages, with a reading time of ~2.75 hours (42,838 words), and first published in 1940. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2021.
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“You’ll have to go to school, Elizabeth!” said Mrs. Allen. “I think your governess is quite right. You are spoilt and naughty, and although Daddy and I were going to leave you here with Miss Scott, when we went away, I think it would be better for you to go to school.”
Elizabeth stared at her mother in dismay. What, leave her home? And her pony and her dog? Go and be with a lot of children she would hate! Oh no, she wouldn’t go!
“I’ll be good with Miss Scott,” she said.
“You’ve said that before,” said her mother. “Miss Scott says she can’t stay with you any longer. Elizabeth, is it true that you put earwigs in her bed last night?”
Elizabeth giggled. “Yes,” she said. “Miss Scott is so frightened of them! It’s silly to be afraid of earwigs, isn’t it?”
“It is much sillier to put them into somebody’s bed,” said Mrs. Allen sternly. “You have been spoilt, and you think you can do what you like! You are an only child, and we love you so much, Daddy and I, that I think we have given you too many lovely things, and allowed you too much freedom.”
“Mummy, if you send me to school, I shall be so naughty there that they’ll send me back home again,” said Elizabeth, shaking her curls back. She was a pretty girl with laughing blue eyes and dark brown curls. All her life she had done as she liked. Six governesses had come and gone, but not one of them had been able to make Elizabeth obedient or good–mannered!
“You can be such a nice little girl!” they had all said to her, “but all you think of is getting into mischief and being rude about it!”
And now when she said that she would be so naughty at school that they would have to send her home, her mother looked at her in despair. She loved Elizabeth very much, and wanted her to be happy—but how could she be happy if she did not learn to be as other children were?
“You have been alone too much, Elizabeth,” she said. “You should have had other children to play with and to work with.”
“I don’t like other children!” said Elizabeth sulkily. It was quite true—she didn’t like boys and girls at all! They were shocked at her mischief and rude ways, and when they said they wouldn’t join in her naughtiness, she laughed at them and said they were babies. Then they told her what they thought of her, and Elizabeth didn’t like it.
So now the thought of going away to school and living with other boys and girls made Elizabeth feel dreadful!
“Please don’t send me,” she begged. “I really will be good at home.”
“No, Elizabeth,” said her mother. “Daddy and I must go away for a whole year, and as Miss Scott won’t stay, and we could not expect to find another governess quickly before we go, it is best you should go to school. You have a good brain and you should be able to do your work well and get to the top of the form. Then we shall be proud of you.”
“I shan’t work at all,” said Elizabeth, pouting. “I won’t work a bit, and they’ll think I’m so stupid they won’t keep me!”
“Well, Elizabeth, if you want to make things difficult for yourself, you’ll have to,” said Mother, getting up. “We have written to Miss Belle and Miss Best, who run Whyteleafe School, and they are willing to take you next week, when the new term begins. Miss Scott will get all your things ready. Please help her all you can.”
Elizabeth was very angry and upset. She didn’t want to go to school. She hated everybody, especially silly children! Miss Scott was horrid to say she wouldn’t stay. Suddenly Elizabeth wondered if she would stay, if she asked her very, very nicely!
She ran to find her governess. Miss Scott was busy sewing Elizabeth’s name on to a pile of brown stockings.
“Are these new stockings?” asked Elizabeth, in surprise. “I don’t wear stockings! I wear socks!”
“You have to wear stockings at Whyteleafe School,” said Miss Scott. Elizabeth stared at the pile, and then she suddenly put her arms round Miss Scott’s neck.
“Miss Scott!” she said. “Stay with me! I know I’m sometimes naughty, but I don’t want you to go.”
“What you really mean is that you don’t want to go to school,” said Miss Scott. “I suppose Mother’s been telling you?”
“Yes, she has,” said Elizabeth. “Miss Scott, I won’t go to school!”
“Well, of course, if you’re such a baby as to be afraid of doing what all other children do, then I’ve nothing more to say,” said Miss Scott, beginning to sew another name on a brown stocking.
Elizabeth stood up at once and stamped her foot. “Afraid!” she shouted. “I’m not afraid! Was I afraid when I fell off my pony? Was I afraid when our car crashed into the bank? Was I afraid when—when—when——”
“Don’t shout at me, please, Elizabeth,” said Miss Scott.”