Published: Bunty Picture Story Library #185
Writer: John McNamara
The recent “Force of Evil” entry raised the theme of a girl battling to clear her father when he is accused of treason. However, it did so in a manner that was totally atypical from the way the theme was usually used in girls’ comics. This story is an example of one way in which the theme was more commonly followed.
Fifteen-year-old Trixie Collins is the most popular girl at St Anne’s School (we have a horrible feeling this is about to change). Trixie’s best friends are Hazel Begby and Molly Teal. Of course Trixie does have enemies, and they take the form of the jealous, stuck-up Monica Dalby and Freda Morgan. They wish they could take Trixie down a peg. (And is it our imaginations, or do Freda and Monica bear a striking resemblance to Mabel and Veronica from “The Four Marys”?)
After sports day, Trixie is surprised to find a note in her shoe from Dad, Professor James Collins, a British scientist. He says to meet him at the tennis courts that night, and it’s urgent. This has Trixie very worried and she wonders if something is wrong, seeing as how Dad phoned to say he could not make it to her sports day.
At the tennis courts, Dad says that things are going to happen that are going to make Trixie very unhappy. But she must be brave, trust him, and not be ashamed, whatever happens. Then he departs, without really explaining what is going on.
Next day, the newspapers give Trixie her answer: Dad has been arrested for selling government secrets to a foreign power. Now Trixie is branded “a traitor’s daughter”, and becomes shunned and bullied. Girls are saying she should be expelled. The headmistress Miss Henderson says she will let Anne stay, though she says she will be surprised if Trixie has any friends left. And of course the jealous Monica and Freda finally have their chance to take Trixie down a peg, and set out to milk Trixie’s downfall for all its worth.
Even Molly and Hazel have gone against Trixie – or so it seems. They are just pretending they are in order to protect her from any nasty schemes Monica cooks up. Trixie begins to suspect they are secretly friendly when Molly deliberately hurts herself so Trixie, reduced to reserve on the swimming team, can swim for the school. The school does not cheer for Trixie when she wins, and the rival school can’t understand why.
The bullying gets worse when Dad is found guilty of treason; Trixie finds her room vandalised (as shown on the cover). Then, when there is a television report that Dad has escaped from prison, Trixie can’t take anymore and tries to run away. Molly and Hazel stop her, revealing that they are indeed secretly friendly and feeling guilty about not being more courageous earlier. Trixie pledges to keep their secret and has more strength to endure her ordeal now she knows she has friends.
The police speak to Trixie about her father. She declares that she will do what he says if he contacts her, even if he was guilty, and will not report him. After she goes, the police tell Miss Henderson they can now make their plans accordingly. Soon after, Trixie receives a sealed envelope from Dad saying it is top secret and not to open it. She is to keep it in a safe place, but someone steals it, and Monica was around at the time. Meanwhile, a new porter named Jobling starts work at the school.
That night the thief (kept in shadows) hands over the envelope to her father. When he opens it he finds it is just blank paper: “You silly, little fool, you’ve been tricked.” He tells the thief to try again for the real papers, so the thief searches Trixie’s study again. But the thief gets surprised by Miss Henderson, and has to knock her out with a hockey stick in order to escape. When the police investigate, they find the incriminating hockey stick on Trixie.
In private, Miss Henderson tells Trixie that she does believe Trixie’s protests of innocence. For the moment, though, they have to let the school think otherwise. Miss Henderson tells Trixie that next time she wants something looked after, she is to hand it over for safekeeping in the school safe, and make sure the whole school sees her do it. Trixie ponders as to how Miss Henderson knew about the envelope when she didn’t tell anyone. (Hmm, could Miss Henderson be another secret friend?)
At a hockey match with a rival school (and no cheers for Trixie, even when they win the match), Monica tries to whack the hockey ball at Trixie’s head. However, a quick catch from Jobling saves Trixie from injury. The sports mistress is suspicious of Monica but has no proof, so she can only give Monica a warning. Afterwards, Trixie finds another sealed envelope from Dad, with instructions to hand it over to Miss Henderson and let people know what she has done. To make sure of this, Trixie hands it to Miss Henderson during assembly.
A few days later it is school prize-giving time. Monica and Freda are furious to see that Trixie is being awarded the prize for best scholar. When Monica’s father visits, he asks her about the envelope Trixie was sent, and is infuriated to learn that it was handed over to Miss Henderson for safekeeping, which means it is in her safe. Mr Dalby works in the same department as Trixie’s father and thinks the letter may be a clue as to his whereabouts. They do not realise Jobling is in earshot.
Dalby and Freda’s parents make their way into Miss Henderson’s study, saying they are very displeased that Trixie has been allowed to remain at the school and even threaten to withdraw Freda because of it. Miss Henderson stands her ground on letting Trixie stay. After the prize giving (where nobody applauds except Hazel, Molly and their parents) Dalby tells Monica to get Trixie expelled, for he just has to get his hands on that letter. So Monica sets about planting her medal on Trixie to get her expelled for stealing. She does not realise Jobling is watching her do it while cleaning the windows. But when Jobling reports to Miss Henderson, he says it was Trixie that did it!
Trixie is expelled and Jobling escorts her to the train. As she leaves the school, Miss Henderson hands her the envelope. Monica sees this and reports to her father. Trixie does not realise Jobling has also boarded the train.
On the train, two thugs confront Trixie, claiming to be police officers. That doesn’t work of course, so they try to make a grab for the envelope. But real police officers burst in and arrest them. Dalby, who is also on the train, discovers his men have been captured. He tries a getaway by jumping off the train, but Jobling stops him and soon Dalby is under arrest as well.
Jobling is now revealed to be…yes, Dad in disguise! Dad explains it was all a plan to trap Dalby. Dalby was the real traitor selling government secrets to the enemy. Dad managed to recover some of the documents but nothing could be proven. So he ended up taking the rap. Those envelopes were bait to catch Dalby, and Miss Henderson was part of the plan to catch him (though just how or why she came to be in on it is not explained).
Now Dad has been cleared, Trixie is no longer under a cloud at St Anne’s. A humbled Monica is “banished the school” (they could have phrased that better!).
All right, for this story to make sense, either of two things had to be going on: 1) the whole thing had been a sting operation from start to finish to flush out Dalby. Dad agreed to be falsely convicted and then sprung from prison so he could go undercover to help flush out Dalby, and he had been working with the police and Miss Henderson the whole time. Or 2) Dad’s conviction was genuine. But by the time he escaped (assuming that was not done with connivance), the police had realised they had the wrong man and begun to suspect Dalby. They caught up with Dad and then concocted the sting operation, with help from Miss Henderson.
Either way, Dad was more fortunate to have so many people to help him when he was falsely accused of treason. Usually such Dads have little more than their family to stand by them. If they are forced to go into hiding they pretty much have to rely on themselves and secret contact with their families, as in “That’s My Girl!” from Mandy. We really applaud Miss Henderson, the headmistress who is more helpful than most in girls’ serials, particularly in stories that deal with bullying. There are not many headmistresses in girls’ comics who are willing to take a crack on the head for their pains, so Miss Henderson is definitely one of the best ever in girls’ comics. We also praise Hazel and Molly, who showed that they really were Trixie’s best friends. Though they don’t get the chance to help unmask Dalby or Monica, they help give Trixie the strength to get through her ordeal and not give in, which helps the undercover operation to continue its course.
From the moment we see the cover, we know what the poor girl on the cover will go through in the course of this story. We bleed inside for her already because it looks so horribly ugly and disturbing. The bullying and ostracism that Trixie undergoes is a very sad but realistic reaction to the charges against her father. In real life, when someone is accused of a crime, their whole family can become ostracised and harassed, just because they are related to him/her and have committed no crime themselves. We all cry for Trixie and we agree with her that it is so unfair to be treated so badly as the ‘sins’ of the father fall upon his child, who had nothing to do with the treason. The demands that Trixie be expelled for what her father is accused of are totally unfair as well, as they are not crimes she committed.
It is no surprise that Monica, the girl who hates Trixie the most, turns out to be linked to the man who did the dirty on Trixie and her father. This is a common thing in girls’ serials that deal with false accusations. We can certainly see where Monica got her nasty nature from. She does not seem to be aware that her father is the real traitor; he has led her to believe that the envelopes contain clues to Collins’ whereabouts, not that they contain secret documents. However, the lengths she goes to in order to get the envelopes (kayoing Miss Henderson, framing Trixie for theft) show just what she is capable of. If she had known her father’s true motives, she might have helped him anyway. Hopefully her humbling and the shame of her father going down for treason will deter her from going down any dark paths in future.