Sunday Afternoon In Early March 1981


Polly answered the doorbell and almost jumped with surprise as she recognised the small, but supremely confident, figure of MissTroughton.


“Oh,Miss...umm...how nice...”


“I have come to have a look round.”


The older woman did not wait to be invited in and proceeded to inspect every corner of the house, accompanied by Jane, who was not enjoying the experience.


Nothing escaped the older woman's eye - a lot of clothing that should have been washed. Many surfaces that should have been dusted and bedrooms that should have been tidied.


The atmosphere in the house, which had been relaxed, was chilly and tense. Miss Troughton was last seen accompanying Jane to her room.


Jane had been elected as 'The Senior' and it was her responsibility to ensure that Miss Troughton's procedures were followed. There was alarge lever-arch file which had had precise details of all aspects of running the house and the required behaviour of the students.


Jane was responsible for ensuring that these procedures were followed. In return, she had the choice of any room – she had elected to take the largest bedroom, which she shared with Alison.


Miss Troughton wasted no time in expressing her views.


“There is clear evidence of slackness here, Jane. You can tell the others that I will be back in about a week and if there is not animprovement, a marked improvement, there will be some very unpleasant consequences. Is that understood?”


Jane,who was blushing as she faced the carpet nodded.


“You keep the plimsoll, here?” Miss Troughton asked casually.


Jane looked at her with wide eyes and nodded very slightly.


“Bring it to me.”


Jane went to a wardrobe and fished it out from a pile of shoes and boots.


The older woman took it and looked at it approvingly, tapping her pal.


“I have half a mind to give you a good dozen here and now.”


“Oh,please Miss....”


“Hmm. Well, just this once I will cut you a bit of slack, but don't count on my good nature if there is any recurrence.”

***

The thought that Miss Troughton might be bluffing never crossed the students' minds and in the next few days there was a flurry of domestic activity. In the next two days the kitchen and the bathroom were scrubbed with a vigour that had been absent for months. Jane and Alison inspected all the bedrooms for the next few days and Polly got slippered, again, for slacking.


The promised inspection had been planned for the following Sunday, but fate intervened. Jane just missed the burglar by about half an hour. She gasped as she saw that the entire house had been turned over.


The call to Miss Troughton was not easy fro Jane to make.


“ The VCR was the most valuable thing to be stolen, the girls had some cash taken but not a lot. I am afraid that some locked drawers had been forced....”


Miss Troughton's icy tone turned glacial when it was revealed that the thief had forced the Yale lock to the kitchen door with ease. A sturdy mortice lock had been supplied but, for whatever reason, had not been used.


The police investigation was thorough enough but the burglars had not left any prints and were never caught.


The days immediately following the event were miserable. The students felt the invasion of their personal space a violation and two or three of them had some lost some jewelry which had been family heirlooms.




They knew that they were in very deep water. If they had followed Miss Troughton's explicit instructions the theft might well have been prevented.


Just before they went to sleep, Alison asked Jane what she thought Miss Troughton's next step would be.


“ I think she will hold me responsible and make me an offer I can't refuse.”


“What would that be?”


“ A choice of handing back the keys or, well, bending over for the cane she keeps in her garden shed.”


Alison should not have been shocked, but she was.