First published in 1949 in The Third Chalet Book for Girls, pages 128-138.
"I shust hate Floppy Williams!" said Fiona, stamping her foot.
"I don't like her myself." Vanna Ozanne spoke thoughfully, her eye on Fiona's flushed face with its flashing dark eyes. 'What's she been doing or saying to you, Fauna?"
"If Floppy Williams hass been going anything horrid, I'll pay her out myself," added Fiona's twin Flora with great decision.
"Well, let Fauna tell us," protested the fourth of the quartette, Vanna's twin Nella. "Keep your will on, Flora, till we know that."
"Sit down," invited Vanna, pulling Fiona - better known to her fellow-Juniors of the Chalet School as 'Fauna' - down on the big settee beside her. "Come on, Flora and Nella. Now then, Fauna!"
The four squeezed in, and their heads went together as Fiona related her tale of woe.
"I wass shust - just, I mean - choosing my library book, and I had picked one that Betsy Lucy says iss efer so nice. Then Floppy came and she said, 'That's the book that Millie Allen said she wanted to read. You can have it after her.' And," continued Fiona, her voice beginning to rise as she recited her wrongs, "she snatched it from me, and took it ofer to Jocelyn, and said she was hafing it for Millie - you known she iss in San with swollen glands - and Jocelyn didn't know that I wass going to haf it, and she said yess it wass all right. And so I didn't get it!"
"The mean pig!" Nella was the first to speak. "But that's just like Floppy Williams. And Millie Allen is a whiney-piney little sneak. I can't bear that girl!"
"Netierh can I. But it wasn't exactly her fault that Floppy prigged Fauna's book," said Vanna reasonably.
Fiona was cooling a little now. "If she had only said that Millie wanted it and asked me if I would mind letting her haf it, I wouldn't haf bothered. But to snatch it from me like that!" Fiona sounded deeply aggrieved, and the rest sympathised with her. None of them liked Florence Williams, a Sixth-Former who openly boasted that she had 'precious little use for most of their tribe,' and who went out of her way to snub them on every occasion. She did make an exception in favour of Millie Allen of their form. But this, though none of them knew it, wa because Millie was the daughter of her father's senior partner, and had been put into her care by an over-anxious father when Millie first came to school. It is to be feared that Nella's description of that young person as 'a little sneak' had some foundation. An only child, and inclined to be delicate, Millie had been so petted before she came that she felt that, whoever else went without, she must have all she wanted. She had been at school half a term before the McDonald twins had arrived; but they had quickly settled in to the usual ideas of schoolgirls, whereas Millie was still a petted baby in her outlooki on life.
"It iss shust like Floppy Bill, as Nella says," said Flora. "I mean to pay her out. She iss always down on us, and hates us - why I can't think. We hafn't done anything to her tha I know of."
It was beyond the other three too. They got on very well with most of the Seniors; but Floppy Williams and her great friend Hilda Hope always seemed to be falling foul of them. There was a reason, of course, though the four were too young and childish to see it. The previous term Floppy and Hilda had ade up a trio with one Betty Wynne-Davies. But Betty had been expelled in the previous term, and the two McDonalds had been mixed up in the affair through no fault of their own. Betty's expulsion had come as a great shock to Floppy, and though she refused to have anything more to do with the girl who had earned the worst punishment that can befall any schoolgirl, some queer feeling kept alive her resentment against the two Juniors, and she never lost an opportunity of being unpleasant to them. Hilda Hope was less blatantly obnoxious; but since Betty's departure she and Floppy had drawn very closely together, as neither of them had much in the way of brains and they neither liked nor were liked by the rest of the Sixth Forms.
"It's a good thing," said Nell darkly, "that those two aren't prees. Your lives wouldn't be worth living if they were!"
"Prees? Them?" her sister put in with much contempt and great lack of grammar. "Who'd make goops like them prees?"
"What did you get to read?" asked Nella of Fiona.
"Nothing. The bell went then, and Jocelyn said, 'Time's up. Those of you who hadn't chosen your books must come at nine tomorrow morning.' And she shut the cupboards, and so I haf nothing!" Fiona finished on a dramatic note with a sweeping gesture which nearly caught her twin and Vanna in the face, and they dodged back quickly to escape.
"You ought to wag your hands at Floppy and Hilda Hope," suggested Nella with a chuckle. "I'm awfully sorry you've nothing to read, Fauna. Shall I lend you my book? Yes; take it. I'm not mad on reading like you and Flora. I can bag Vanna's if I want anything."
"What iss it?" asked Fiona cautiously.
"'The Little Girl's Cookery Book.' It was the first thing I saw."
"I wish they'd let us learn cooking," Vanna said, going off at a tangent. "Mummy taught us how to make gingerbread and raspberry buns in the hols., and it was such fun. I'd love to learn here."
"Got to wait till you're Fifth Form, anyhow," her twin told her.
"you four - come on and play games in Gym!" cried a fresh voice at this moment. "We've got leave to play there till supper-time. Come on!"
They jumped up and raced after Bride Bettany, and in the excitement of their games all forgot their grievances against Floppy Williams - all except Flora. That damsel was a true Highlander in her clan feeling and possessed a most unpraiseworthy tenacity for a grudge. Fiona had the hotter temper, flaring up for a few minutes and then cooling almost as quickly. Flora, on the other hand, was like the elephant. She didn't forget; and all the teaching she had so far received on the need for forgiving others had not broken her of this failing.
"I'll forgive when I've paid back," she used to say stubbornly.
Now she set her small mind to work, even while she was chasing Bride in 'Twos and Threes,' and later dancing round with the rest in 'Wallflowers.' What could she do to pay out Floppy Williams for the way she had treated Fiona? It was even more necessary to settle scores with her because the injury had been to her twin. Flora thought hard, and was uncommonly stupid over the games asa result.
The bell had rung for supper and she still had thought of nothing. She sat through the meal, an unwonted scowl on her brow, and hardly spoke. Prayers came after supper, and Flora joined in them, but it is to be feared thatshe was in a far from prayerful mood. After Prayers the Juniors went to bed, and in their dormitory, at any rate, there was rarely any dallying over undressing and washing. Fiona was past-master in the art of telling tales, and it was an understood thing that if she stopped as soon as the bell sounded for Lights Out they might enjoy her stories. The McDonald twins had spent the first eleven years of their lives on a tiny island among the Outer Hebrides, among a people who thrived on legends and songs and tales, and she had drunk them all in from her earliest years. She was blessed with a musical voice which, together with the Highland accent that so far neither of them had lost, made the stories doubly entralling, and the members of her dormitory were regarded with envy by most of the other Juniors.
On this night it seemed good to her to produce an old clan story of how Archie McDonald, who had flourished in the middle of the eighteenth century, had paid out his Cousin Eppie for whipping his baby sister, Morag, when she dropped some stitches in her knitting.
"Cousin Eppie kept house for the McDonald of that day," said Fiona in her low, thrilling tones, "for his wife had died when wee Morag wass born. Archie wass shust twelf then, and there were Kenneth who wass ten, and Donald who wass eight, and his twin sister, Marjory, and wee Morag. They were fery angry when Cousin Eppie whipped wee Morag, and Archie vowed that she should be paid for it, but he could not fery well see how at first.
"But there came a day when a McDonald from one of the other islands came to stay, and he prought with him hiss eldest son who wass another Archie. Eppie liked the big Archie, who wass a braw lad, and she got hold of Marjory, andpromised her that is she would tell the big Archie how good Cousin Eppie had been to them all, and how she could bake and brew, and spin and weave, and dye her wool, and make all kinds of herb drinks too, and knit, and do all the things of the house well, she would ask The McDonald - that wass their father and Eppie's uncle - to give Marjory one of the new sheepdog puppies for her fery own.
"Marjory had alwys wanted a sheepdog, but Cousin Eppie had said she could not haf it. So now she forgot about wee Morag being whipped and said she would.
"The big Archie liked wee lassies fery well, for he had no sisters himself, and he made a pet of Marjory, and would have done of wee Morag, but she wass fery shy - "
"Just like you McDonalds when you first came," put in someone.
"We were not!" cried Fiona, her cheeks flaming. "And if you don't like my story, I'll stop telling it and go to sleep! So there!"
"Primrose, you ass!" - "Shut up, Primrose" - "Go on, Fauna, and don't mind that idiot!" came from all sides; so Primrose subsided, and Fiona agreed to go on.
"anyhow, Morag would say nothing to him. But Marjory wass not shy at all, and she told him all Cousin Eppie had asked her, and he looked at her, and thought to himself that since he was old enough to wed, he might do worse than ask for her.
"One day, The McDonald said that he must have a feast for his kinsmen. Servants were sent to the mainland to get venison, for there are no deer on Erisay, and nefer haf been. There were salmon and other fish, and Cousin Eppie baked some scones and cakes. But especially she wass going to make some of her mutton pies, for which she was noted. Then Archie saw his change to pay her back. He called his brothers - but not Marjory or Morag, for they were cross with Marjory for doing as Cousin Eppie had asked her, and they feared wee Morag might tell - and they went and hunted for herbs that Cousin Eppie used to make herb medicine - fery nasty-tasting stuff, too. They found them, and they gathered a great bunch of them, and then Archie went to the kitchen, and when no one wass looking, for they were all fery busy, he took a porridge-pot. They made a fire, and put water in the pot, and when it wass boiling they threw the herbs in, and kept it boilding, and stirred it till they had a thick liquid, and fery, fery nasty inteet, as they knew, for Archie tasted it and made his brothers taste too, and they said it wass like poison, and they could not get the taste out of their mouths all day.
"Next Archie brought a wee bowl and poured the liquid into it, and then he slipped into the pantry where there wass a great dish of meat in rich gravy standing to cool, all reaty for Cousin Eppie to make into pies the next day. He looked around, and there wass no one to see, so he poured his bowlful of liquid into the gravy, and then ran away. The scrubbed the pot with rottenstone, for they did not want their porridge to taste of the herb, and then they put the bowl back, and no one knew what they had done.
"Next day, Cousin Eppie came to make her pies, and the gravy wass so rich it wass all in a stiff jelly, which pleased her fery much. She made her pies fery carefully, and while they were baking in the big turf oven she watched them, and took them out when they were shusht a bonny golden colour. Then she put them in the pantry, and when the efening came, and she dressed in her brawest gown, and tied one blue ribbon in her curls, and another with a big gold locket at her throat, she thought to herself how Archie would like her pies, and maybe on the morrow he would ask for her hand in marriage. "It wass a grand feast, and the pipers walked round the table as all sat there, skirling their lofeliest tunes on the pipes. And then the mutton pies were brought, and the big Archie said, 'I must surely taste these, for I know that Cousin Eppie had made them.'
"His father was served first, then the son's turn came, and so all round the table. Then the big Archie took a large mouthful - and it wass awful!" Fiona's dark eyes widened, and she leaned forward, her thick back curls tumbling round her shoulders, her whole face alight with the interest of her story. "He sprang to his feet and laid his hand at the hilt of his sword. 'I never thought to find poison in my meat here, Cousin Duncan!' he cried to The McDonald. 'But this is the worst poison I haf thought could be, and all who taste of it will surely die!' and those who had tasted were all groaning that they were dying, and it wass Cousin Eppie who had done it, for she had made the pies, and no one eles had touched them.
"Cousin Eppie jumped up in her turn. 'Weel ye ken I wad nefer do siccan thing!' she cried, 'and in proof - here!' And she opened her mouth wide and took the biggest mouthful of pie off the big Archie's plate that she could. and the next moment she had pulled it out of her mouth and flung round on The McDonald.
"'Uncle,' she cried, 'this is the doing o' those de'ils o' bairns of yours! Gin ye give them their deserts, there'll be sort bodies the morn.' and she swept away from the table.
"But the big Archie had been watching her, and he thought he had never seen a bonnier lass. She wass fair, like Flora, and when her blue eyes flashed, and the scarlet came to her cheeks, and he swept out with the ligh from the torches gleaming on her golden curls, she looked shust magnificent. and he left the table and went after her, and before that night was ended she had given him her troth.
"But Archie and his brothers never got their thrashing, for the big Archie begged them off because, he said, those pies had made him sure that Cousin Eppie wass the wife for him. And so they had paid her out for whipping wee Morag, Marjory got her sheepdog, and before the year came round again Cousin Eppie was away and married, and their father had brought him a bonny young second wife who wass as gentle as she wass bonny, and nefer whipped the girls at all. - There's the bell for Lights Out! Good night, eferyone!" And Fiona snuggled under the bedclothes and was soon asleep.
As for Flora, she had gained a new idea for paying Floppy out for her unkindness to Fiona. It remained to be see how it could be carried out.
On to Chapter II