Chapter Four: SARAH LEAVES HER BOARDING SCHOOL AND FINDS HERSELF IN OXFORD
‘Yes, Miss Teape; of course Lady Warden.’ Sarah’s heart sank as Aunt Caroline seemed to be agreeing with everything the Lady Warden said about her. Aunt Caroline, her mother’s older sister, looked exactly the same as Sarah remembered her from some seven years earlier – tall, fair hair touched with auburn, and clear blue eyes. She reminded Sarah very much of her own mother, whom she had not seen for almost as long. Would she ever see her mother again? She seemed so very far away and seeing Aunt Caroline made her think of her mother for the first time in a long while. She sighed. Perhaps one day she would go to India, or they might even come home to England. She felt very alone in the world, especially since leaving Kingham Manor. Would she ever get back there?
The sorry tale was told and Sarah was damned for her rebelliousness, her impudence, her violent temper, her lack of co-operation, her thoroughly unladylike behaviour (‘not what we expect at St Raphael’s’), and much, much more. Sarah was seething, and several times was on the point of shouting our in her defence. Was Aunt Caroline really believing all this horrid half truth or untruth? What would it be like, thought Sarah, having to go and live with someone who believed all the dreadful things the Lady Warden was saying about her?
‘What she really needs is a thoroughly good thrashing,’ the Lady Warden was saying, very emphatically. ‘You mark my words, let her get away with such bad behaviour, and she’ll be nothing but trouble for years to come.’ At this point Aunt Caroline tactfully suggested that perhaps they shouldn’t keep the carriage waiting any longer.
The Lady Warden gave vent to one more outburst: ‘She’s been a thoroughly bad influence. Just take her in hand – soon – or she’ll come to a bad end.’
‘Yes, Lady Warden.’ Aunt Caroline seemed almost meek in her acquiescence. ‘Thank you Lady Warden.’
She held out her hand, ‘Good bye, Lady Warden, and thank you.’
At last they were out of the door. Sarah’s trunk was already strapped to the back of the carriage, and they got in without so much as a glance backward as the carriage set off down the long drive in silence, both Sarah and Aunt Caroline looking straight ahead.