It was Valerie’s idea. I didn’t really want anything to do with it at all. She was the one that said we should teach Mrs. Evans a lesson. Just because I mentioned it, doesn’t mean I really wanted to do it, and anyway, I didn’t know that anything was going to happen now did I?
She was such a horrible teacher though, and really she deserved something bad happening to her, after all the times she had made someone else cry. Alice Hornsby is still so scared of that cupboard, that she has hardly said a word for ages and ages. I don’t think it will be long before they put her on the top floor, you know, where all the crazy ones get put. Valerie says that they send what she calls “the nutters” up there and lock them up to die. I don’t believe that they actually let anyone die up there, but I do think it’s strange that no one seems to come down from there afterwards. Maybe they sneak them out in the middle of the night.
We only wanted to teach Mrs. Evans a lesson, let her know how scary her punishments are. We didn’t intend for THAT to happen. Well I know that I didn’t anyway, but to be honest, I do wonder about the others. They did seem to enjoy doing it a little too much.
Valerie said that we shouldn’t worry about it. She said that it would be a day or so before anyone even thinks about it, and that no one who was there will ever say anything. They are all just happy that she isn’t going to upset anyone anymore.
I’ve never been put in the cupboard before. Valerie says it’s because I’m a teacher’s pet, but really it’s just because I don’t like to do anything wrong. There’s nothing bad about not being naughty is there? Well, anyway, I didn’t know what they were all so scared about until Alice came out that day after Mrs. Evans locked her in there for a whole half an hour. She never made a sound whilst she was in there, and Mrs. Evans nearly forgot about her. She carried on our numbers lesson. We were on fractions again, which was the hardest ever, and she liked them so much.
After about half an hour I noticed that Mrs. Evans didn’t look like she was going to let Alice out so I asked her.
Now she said that Alice deserved to be in there for that long, but I know by the look on her face that she had forgotten completely about it.
When she opened the doors, Alice had gone white as one of the sheets in the laundry, and she was sitting there perfectly still watching that thing that sat in the opposite end of the cupboard. She had big red blotches around her eyes from crying, but I don’t remember hearing her at all. She must have cried really quietly. Alice has barely said a word since then.
It was at least a month after that, when we were all up in bed and Valerie was trying to get Alice to talk again, as usual. It suddenly popped into my head that I bet Mrs. Evans had never been in the cupboard. If she had been in the cupboard at any time I didn’t think that she would be so keen to use it as a punishment, unless she was really nasty that is.
Most of the teachers at the orphanage had grown up there, or that’s what Miss Sellridge says anyway – she is the English teacher and the matron of the second floor, just below us. But Mrs. Evans wasn’t an orphan, and had come there voluntary, a long time before I was there. Who would want to come to this place voluntarily is beyond me.
I was lying in bed listening to Valerie waffling on, then I wondered if Mrs. Evans would like to know how scary the cupboard was. I wondered if she might stop putting us in there if she had tried it.
“I don’t think anyone likes her,” said Valerie, I could hear her voice quite clearly in the room; I was surprised the matron didn’t hear from her room at the end of the hall. “I know I don’t like her”.
“She smells as well. Just like old boots and moth balls, like she was born in that cupboard.”
“You know nearly everyone here has been in the cupboard Alice,” She said, “And we are all ok. It’s scary, I know it is. But it’s not so bad that you have to keep quite forever. Mrs. Evans didn’t say you had to stop talking forever, just to be quite in class.”
I liked Alice. At least I liked the “before the cupboard” Alice. She had been ever so friendly, and a right chatterbox before getting herself locked up. She had been told off quite few times for talking in the class, but she was a new girl, only there a few weeks, and they could have been a bit nicer. She was just being friendly. I don’t think she could help herself.
I saw the thing in the cupboard the day before we did it. I thought it was ugly, and looked like it was staring straight at me, even though I knew that it was just the way the eyes were painted on. Why anyone would want to buy something like that I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t want it as a present. Maybe that’s why that foreign school had sent it in the first place.
It’s been in that cupboard for years and years. Valerie says she once got Mrs. Evans to tell a bit about how it got there, and she said it was a gift from way back, given to the school as a present from the headmaster of another orphan’s school, but this one was somewhere in another country. I think she said it was Denmark, So that made it sent by a Dutchman. Which makes no sense to me at all; I thought the Danish came from Denmark.
Well this thing is not much smaller than me and it’s got cross-eyes as well, but the dress is pretty, much nicer than my posh dress. If it weren’t so creepy it could almost look like a little girl.
Valerie was born in the school, her mummy died here. She has been here her whole life, apart from a month a few years ago when she ran away, and they didn’t catch her until she got to Northampton. She says she is glad because some nasty old man was going to sell her to the slave market. I didn’t know there was still a slave market. She says there are slave markets all over the place, and that if we misbehaved too much the people who own the orphanage would probably sell us all. I think Valerie makes up stories sometimes.
Anyway, that night, Valerie was going on at Alice, trying to get her to talk, and not getting anywhere. I said that I wondered if Mrs. Evans had ever been locked in the cupboard before. I wish I hadn’t said anything now, because no sooner was out of my mouth, than everyone was sitting up and whispering, making plans, and giggling about it all. Then Valerie said that since it was a really good idea of mine that I should get to do it. How I wish I had kept my mouth shut.
I didn’t have anything to do with the planning. That was Valerie, Maisey Brooks and Sarah Walker that did all that, they just told me when to do my bit, the pushing bit. I think they thought I was a bit fat, so I might be able to push harder. I’m not that much bigger than them.
They made plans every night for ages, and we even had a practice run when we got cleaning duty in the schooling room one day. It all seemed like it was going to be so easy.
It was Valerie idea to ask to hear the story about the doll again. I think that Mrs. Evans was quite pleased that someone had taken interest in hearing anything in her class, because she was happy to oblige.
As planned, when she opened the door I ran up behind her and pushed her as hard as I could.
We had moved around a bit in the classroom. Just by swapping places each day and hoping she didn’t notice. One day two of us would swap, and then the next day two more would swap, just so that Valerie, Sarah and I could get closer to where the cupboard was. Maisey already sat near to the cupboards anyway, so she was alright.
Mrs. Evans must have been sillier than I thought, because although I think I saw her peering at us, with that questioning look that she does, she didn’t figure out that we had moved around.
So when she was leaning over, just about to get the doll out, I shoved her as hard as I could, just as Valerie had taught me to do, and just like the boys from the other orphanage do when they play rugby in the school field over the road. I don’t know how Valerie learned to rugby tackle, and I didn’t dare ask, in case I got another of her stories.
Mrs. Evans toppled over and fell right into the cupboard. And as soon as she was in there, with her legs up behind her, kicking in all directions, she started shouting and screaming. I nearly panicked, but then the other girls were there, Maisey and Sarah were leaning on the doors, whilst I held the handles together. Valerie put the bolts across as quickly as she could.
Mrs. Evans wouldn’t stop yelling. She was so loud that we thought another teacher would hear her and come in. Valerie told her that none of the other teachers could hear, and if she was quiet then we would let her out in a few minutes. But Mrs. Evans wasn’t having any of that. She started yelling and cursing, saying all sorts of things that she shouldn’t have been saying. The kind of things that would get you put in the cupboard.
But then she started crying, and she was calling out for someone to help her, I started feeling all guilty about it, and asked if we could let her out, but they wouldn’t let me undo the bolts. Valerie had this big grin on her face, and Alice was smiling as well, a really weird and evil smile, like she had gone mad. She started swaying backwards and forwards and mumbling about strange stuff. Sarah and Maisey were the same; they stood there with those big smiles that looked like something else was inside their faces, stretching their cheeks just a little bit further than was natural.
Mrs. Evans was screaming, yelling for the thing to leave her alone, begging it to go away, and I was getting frightened. Then the door burst open and Miss Sellridge rushed into the room, demanding to know what was going on, but by then it had gone all quite, and Mrs. Evans wasn’t yelling anymore.
Miss Sellridge shouted at us to tell her what was going on, and where Mrs. Evans was. So I told her. She looked so angry at us. But when she undid the bolts and opened the cupboard doors, all that was in there was that Doll, nothing else. Mrs. Evans had vanished entirely.
So it didn’t just take a day for them to notice she had gone, they never did find her, and no one got in trouble for it because there was never anything discovered to get into trouble about. For ages Miss Sellridge kept telling the headmistress and the other matrons and teachers that something was wrong. But then one day she left, or so I was told, she just stopped coming into class, or she disappeared or something.
The thing that scares me the most when I think of Miss Sellridge opening that cupboard door is where the doll was. When we pushed Mrs. Evans in there, it was sitting in the corner on the left side, where it always sat. But when Miss Sellridge opened the doors it was over the other side. Right where Mrs. Evans would have been sitting for the few minutes that she was stuck in the cupboard.
Still to this day I wonder where it was that she went. Where that Doll took her. Because as silly as it may sound, I’m pretty sure it was the Doll that did it. Maybe she went to Denmark.