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The children stopped chattering as Miss Hughes entered the classroom. Then they stood up as one body and said in a loud chorus:
"Good morning, teacher."
Miss Hughes smiled, said good morning too and told the class to sit down. At a glance there seemed to be about thirty-five pupils in the class. The majority were girls. She noticed several intelligent faces. All the pupils were watching her intently, waiting no doubt to find out what sort of person she was.
"I suppose you want to know my name," she said. But before she could tell them, someone in the class called out, "It's Miss Hughes." Everybody laughed. Miss Hughes laughed too.
"News travels quickly," she said. "I'm afraid it will take me longer to learn all your names."
Miss Hughes opened the attendance register and called their names in turn. When she came to the last name on the list, John Young, she noticed that he had been absent for over a month.
"What's the matter with John Young?" she asked, looking up.
"He's in hospital, Miss Hughes," said a fair-haired girl in the front row. "He's broken his leg."
"He slipped on the ice," added one of the boys.
"Has anyone been to see him in hospital?" Miss Hughes asked.
No one replied.
It was time to start the lesson. "Now let me see," said Miss Hughes, looking at the timetable. "The first lesson is English."
"Oh! Please tell us a story," begged one of the girls.
Several of the pupils repeated this. Miss Hughes smiled.
"Very well," she said. "But first of all I want you to write a letter to John Young. We'll send the best ones to cheer him up in hospital. Afterwards I'll tell you a story, if you're good."
They were all writing busily when Miss Hughes slipped out of the classroom to fetch a book which she had left in the staffroom. She passed the headmistress in the corridor.
"Any trouble from that class?" the headmistress asked.
"Not so far," said Miss Hughes confidently. "They all seem very well behaved."