Paradise came to an end when Pip and Jim reached the age of thirteen, and Sarah was nearly ten. Lady Eleanor (their mother preferred to be addressed as “Lady Eleanor”) called the three of them into her drawing room.
‘Pip and Jim,’ she said, ‘your father has arranged for you to go to Eton this autumn. You will be taken to London to be fitted out and equipped. You won’t see Desmond because he is going up to Oxford, but you will go into the same house.’
‘What about me, Lady Eleanor?’ asked Sarah. ‘What shall I be doing? Can I stay here?’ Sarah would be lonely on her own, but at least Pip and Jim would be home for the holidays.
‘There’s no question of staying here on your own. I have written to your mother, and she has agreed that, although you are a year young, you will be quite ready to go to a good boarding school. St Raphael’s is one of the very best, and I am sure you will get an excellent education; and, you will learn to be a young lady in all respects – none too soon in my opinion.’
Sarah’s heart sank. Leaving Pip and Jim was bad enough, but leaving the manor, her pony and all the other delights of the estates would be a wrench. She knew nothing of St Raphael’s, a very smart boarding school for young ladies in the depths of Hampshire, and she had absolutely no wish to ‘learn to be a lady’.
The autumn came all too soon, and Sarah was taken to St Raphael’s to join other new girls a year older than her, and all seemingly ready and willing to ‘learn to be ladies’. She hated life there; imprisoned in the confines of the mansion, which formed the main school house, Sarah longed to explore the countryside and do all the adventurous activities she enjoyed on her uncle’s estates. Subject to petty rules, required to practise ‘ladylike’ behaviour, and taunted by the other girls for being apparently ‘different’, Sarah was unhappy and rebelled continuously.
‘Well, Sarah Hamilton-Wordsworth,’ they would taunt, ‘who’s not worth having words talked to her then? Who’s too big for her boots? Who pretends that her uncle has big estates?’ And so on, endlessly – ink spilt on her exercise book, ‘by accident’; jam on her hairbrush, and then tangled into her hair; and countless petty, nasty little tricks.
Sarah, barely ten, was tall for her age – taller than some twelve year olds; she had long fair hair, an oval face, with green eyes. She clearly stood out as somehow ‘different’ to the other girls who preferred to be pale. Sarah’s face was tanned with the sun and fresh air; her arms, and her legs were not only tanned and physically strong, but recovering from the scratches of brambles and the bruises of things she had bumped into, or gates and trees climbed with subsequent falls. Most unladylike in the eyes of the majority, and the young in a crowd do not like any individual to be different, so try to force them into the same mould as themselves, and do so most cruelly.