Harry groaned, ‘Why, oh, why did the Bookworm tell us to read and write a review on “The Hobbit”? It is such a difficult book.’
‘I agree with you’ said Jasmine, ‘but it’s not too hard for me, I can understand the meaning by just by just reading the sentence as I read a lot of books.’
‘You are also a bookworm, I can see.’ said Harry.
Jasmine gave her a friendly punch. The two girls were sitting in their study, which they also shared with George, reading the book and trying to make out the meanings. Harry was a girl really, but everyone called her Harry instead of Harriet. George too was a girl, named Georgina, but she hated her name so everyone called her George instead. The girls studied in an all girl’s school called St. John’s where groups of three girls each share a room which they called their studies.
All the girls, except Daisy, in the 2nd form hated their English and class teacher, Mrs. Queen, and always played tricks on her. They called her ‘The Bookworm’ as she loved reading books.
Harry and Jasmine went on reading. George burst into the room with a dictionary in her hand. She started flapping frantically through the pages.
Jasmine quietly asked her, ‘What word?’
‘Ere’ answered George, still flapping through the pages of the dictionary.
‘You won’t find it there.’ said Jasmine ‘It’s old English and it means “before”.’
‘Thanks’ said George ‘otherwise goodness knows how much time I would have wasted on it. I really hate bookworm.’
‘How’s her darling daughter?’ asked Harry teasingly. She meant Daisy, of course, as every girl called her ‘Bookworm’s darling daughter’.
‘She was reading a book as usual.’ answered George.
‘Oh dear, will you please stop talking?’ asked Jasmine. ‘I can’t understand a word this paragraph says as you’re distracting me.’
‘Sorry, we won’t talk anymore.’ said the other two and not another word was uttered. Jasmine could be fierce if her temper was roused.
The exams were coming in a week. Every day the anxiety grew worse. Zerelda and Zeraphina Cunningham, the American twins, went almost mad. They never had exams like these at their old school back in America.
Jasmine was the only calm person in the form. Lessons were easy for her so she wasn’t anxious. Jasmine was usually a calm girl (except when she was in a temper), sensible, absolutely straightforward and truthful, and was never nervous. She was also extremely good at studies, art, music, drama, elocution and games. She was very kind and generous and also very patient when explaining something. She was always willing to help somebody else so whenever somebody didn’t understand something (which was quite often during the examinations) she always went to Jasmine for help.
The most of the girls in the school were in confusion other than Jasmine. Everyone was trying to learn something at all times, but never quite succeeding. In the middle of it all, they all got a terrible shock.
Mrs. Wilson, the girls’ adored principal, had an accident and was admitted to the hospital. The school was now under Miss Jenkins. She was the vice principal of St. John’s and the girls were terribly scared of her.
Miss Jenkins was extremely strict, had a very hot temper and gave out terrible punishments by the dozen, even when it wasn’t needed. She was a rather harsh person and hated the girls’ cheerful ways. The only person she was in awe of was Mrs. Wilson.
Mrs. Wilson, on the other hand, was very kind and cheerful, though rather grim and stern when she was angry. She understood the girls as well as they understood her and believed that it was no use scolding and punishing children when they had done something wrong, it would only make them hate the person and think more than ever than ever that she was correct and the other person was wrong. So naturally the changing of a principal from kind Mrs. Wilson to harsh Miss Jenkins with the exams coming was rather a lot to cope with for the girls. They just didn’t know what to do.
It was a cold, Wednesday night. The clock struck one when Jasmine suddenly woke up feeling terribly thirsty. So she put her dressing gown on and walked silently out of her room so as not to wake up George and Harry. She wanted to go to the washroom for a drink of water but in the dark she took a wrong turning and went towards the common room instead. But when she realized that she was going the wrong way she had already reached the door of the common room. She turned around and found that she was standing face to face with Miss Jenkins herself. Miss Jenkins had an iron grip hold of Jasmine’s hand so that she couldn’t run away.
Miss Jenkins was on one of her night rounds and had seen Jasmine apparently going to the common room. She did her night rounds quite often to make sure that none of the girls were up to any mischief. She had followed Jasmine and caught hold or her the moment she turned around and asked her, ‘What do you think you’re doing here, that to at this time of the night?’
‘I just wanted a drink of water.’ answered Jasmine in a perfectly unmoved voice. Miss Jenkins was a little taken aback for she expected Jasmine to be scared and burst into tears or stammer. And it outraged her more to see Jasmine so unmoved.
‘You’re lying, Jasmine! Do you think you can fool me with such lame excuses? Do you think I don’t know where the washroom is?’ said the outraged Miss Jenkins. ‘No, I don’t want to hear anything; I know you girls’ ways. I know what you’re doing. You’re having a midnight feast! It must be someone’s birthday. Then only you aren’t to be blamed. The whole form must be punished. So on the 19th of September (which leaves you three days to study as today is the 16th) your class will have to give a test on the chapter “The American Civil War” of History. That’s your punishment.’ finished off Miss Jenkins.
‘But, Miss Jenkins, that’s a 4th form chapter and we’re only in the 2nd form!’ said the horrified Jasmine ‘And anyway, why are you punishing us? We aren’t having a mid……..’
‘Enough, Jasmine’ said Miss Jenkins furiously. ‘I won’t hear another word from you. Go back to your room.’
It was useless to try and convince Miss Jenkins that they were not having a midnight feast, Jasmine knew that. So she quickly went back to her room and woke up Harry and George. Then the three of them went to the different rooms of the 2nd form and woke the others up. There were only 9 of them: Jasmine White, Harriet Plumber, George Kinsley, Daphne Darling, Daisy Quentin, Zerelda and Zeraphina Cunningham, Amy Irving, and Kathleen Ellen, the head of the form. Everyone was cross and annoyed and also very worried when they heard the story but they didn’t blame Jasmine, because they knew that nothing could have been done to make Miss Jenkins change her mind. Zeraphina and Zerelda were especially annoyed as they loved and admired Jasmine highly.
‘How she could ever think that Jasmine, who regards dishonesty as cowardice, could tell a lie that, too, to her, we have no idea.’ they said furiously, as all of them dressed and got ready to go down for breakfast.
‘What’s the matter, girls?’ asked Mrs. Queen, as she noticed all the glum faces surrounding her. Amy made a quick consultation with Kathleen and Jasmine and stood up. She poured the whole story out to Mrs. Queen. She wouldn’t have done so had not Mrs. Queen given them all a surprise.
Mrs. Queen knew the feeling of anxiousness before the exams. So, instead of teaching the girls more, she started to go through the exam syllabus again. She was very patient with the girls and cleared all their doubts. Sometimes, to relieve their minds, she also took them out for walks. This soothed the girls, and they started to like and trust Mrs. Queen.
After Mrs. Queen heard what Amy had to say, she quietly said, ‘Girls, please finish your breakfast. We will discuss this matter in class.’ and the girls knew not to pursue the subject anymore at that point of time.
Everyone was in class. The girls could her Mrs. Queen’s soft footsteps. Daisy, who was nearest to the door, held it open for her to enter. After the class settled down, the first thing Mrs. Queen said was, ‘At breakfast, Amy told me why you were upset. I hope she told me the truth?’
Jasmine stood up and answered, ‘Yes, Mrs. Queen, Amy has been absolutely honest. We really weren’t having any midnight feast. All I wanted was a drink of water. I had simply taken a wrong turning in the dark,’
‘Right,’ said Mrs. Queen. ‘Please do not worry any more. I will talk to Miss Jenkins and if she doesn’t agree, I will go and meet Mrs. Wilson herself.’
She was as good as her word. Miss Jenkins did not believe her, so she visited the hospital where Mrs. Wilson was admitted. When the latter heard what had happened, she immediately summoned Miss Jenkins to come and see her. Mrs. Wilson told her off so severely, that she cancelled the test then and there. The girls were forever after grateful to Mrs. Queen and liked and trusted her from then on.