SLOWLY, AMIDST INTOLERABLE NOISES from, on the one hand the street and, on the other, from the large and voluminously echoing playground, the depths of the telephone began, for Valentine, to assume an aspect that, years ago it had used to have--of being a part of the supernatural paraphernalia of inscrutable Destiny.
The telephone, for some ingeniously torturing reason, was in a corner of the great schoolroom without any protection and, called imperatively, at a moment of considerable suspense, out of the asphalt playground where, under her command ranks of girls had stood electrically only just within the margin of control, Valentine with the receiver at her ear was plunged immediately into incomprehensible news uttered by a voice that she seemed half to remember. Right in the middle of a sentence it hit her:
". . . that he ought presumably to be under control, which you mightn't like!"; after that the noise burst out again and rendered the voice inaudible.
It occurred to her that probably at that minute the whole population of the world needed to be under control; she knew she herself did. But she had no male relative that the verdict could apply to in especial. Her brother? But he was on a mine-sweeper. In dock at the moment. And now . . . safe for good! There was also an aged greatuncle that she had never seen. Dean of somewhere. . . . Hereford? Exeter? . . . Somewhere . . . Had she just said safe? She was shaken with joy!
She said into the mouthpiece:
" Valentine Wannop speaking. . . . Physical Instructress at this school, you know!"