It was the second week of Darrell's second term at Malory Towers. The ten North Tower first formers were in their common room, engaged in a variety of activities.
Darrell looked up from her knitting. She still had another six inches to go before she finished the brown and orange scarf she was making for her young sister, Felicity. "Alicia, one of the things I expected to do when I came to Malory Towers was to go to a midnight feast. We didn't have one last term. Don't you have them here?"
"Of course we do. I'm sure I don't know why we didn't have one."
"Are you sure you didn't sneak out to the one the West Tower girls held?" said Jean. She had a nose for news, but hadn't seen fit to share that tid bit last term.
Alicia pursed her lips. She didn't want to admit Betty hadn't told her about it until the week they'd spent together in the holidays.
"I slipped some lemonade powders into my trunk, and two tins of sardines, just in case they were needed," said Darrell, unwittingly saving Alicia from replying.
"What's a midnight feast?" asked Gwendoline curiously.
Irene, Darrell and Alicia all spoke at once. Jean and Emily chimed in. Even Mary-Lou contributed a few words.
"Oh," said Gwendoline. Miss Winter hadn't encouraged the reading of school stories. "Are we allowed to have a feast?"
"No, silly. That's the whole point," said Alicia. "Katherine, you'll join in, won't you?"
Katherine, head of the dormitory and usually a stickler for the rules, laughed. "Of course."
"How do we go about getting cakes and sweets?" asked Sally.
The girls decided the following Saturday would be best. It was their turn to go to the village and they could purchase supplies. Things like sweets and chocolates would fit into pockets, while Alicia, Jean and surprisingly Katherine volunteered to take care of the more difficult to conceal items.
"This is a North Tower stunt," said Katherine, looking straight at Alicia.
"Of course," agreed Alicia.
The girls found it hard to keep their excitement under wraps. Gwendoline broke her record of four returned lessons in one week. Alicia found herself with one hundred lines for cheeking a prefect. Matron dosed Mary-Lou for an upset tummy.
In the dormitory, Katherine spoke sternly to them. "Do you want this feast over before it begins?"
At midnight, Katherine's alarm clock rang. She turned it off and sprang out of bed. Emily, Irene and Gwendoline had to be shaken awake. The girls switched on their torches, and with muffled giggles, took out the tuck from the various hiding places.
Jean shook out a length of material and placed it on the floor. "To catch the crumbs," she explained.
Katherine and Alicia directed the setting out, while Emily, Sally and Darrell collected everyone's tooth glasses and mixed the lemonade powder. Even Gwendoline helped, placing the girls' pillows on the floor.
It looked splendid. A fruit cake stood in the centre, with the sardines close by, ready to be pressed into its rich plumminess, a combination found in several of the best school stories the girls planned to try. Plates of cream buns, smuggled in by Alicia, who refused to share the method by which she'd managed to get them into the dormitory undetected by any prefects, staff or Matron, were at either end of the makeshift tablecloth. Sally contributed chocolates, Gwendoline and Irene the packets of biscuits, while Mary-Lou had filled her pockets with boiled sweets, which now lay in several small heaps amongst the other goodies.
Darrell hugged herself, memorising the picture of her first, and hopefully not her last, midnight feast.
"Dig in," ordered Alicia. So they did.