Four terms after her first term, Darrell Rivers returns to Malory Towers as a second-former. She and her friend Sally Hope are eager to find out what is in store for them in their new year, in particular the new head of the form. As soon as they arrive, their housemistress tells them to look after two new girls, the subdued and harried-looking scholarship girl Ellen Wilson, and the scatter-brained but extremely talented artist Belinda Morris. Gwendoline also decides to take charge of another new vain second-former called Daphne Turner, because she is beautiful and apparently rich. The next day, Sally is made head of the form, much to the displeasure and jealousy of Alicia.
Meanwhile there are other problems that are trying or upsetting for the whole form. Ellen is constantly stressed and snaps at anyone who talks to her. She studies very hard, yet she always slides lower in her work. Belinda also shocks the two French teachers by sketching some comical pictures of them and leaving them on the teacher's desk. The strict Mam'zelle Rougier finds them and punishes the whole class. All of the girls except Gwendoline and Mary-Lou are tired of Daphne's constant airs and graces, but wonder why she lacks in so many stamps, writing paper and has no lacrosse stick.
The most worrying problem is the stealing. Other people's jewellry and money are always going missing, which also coincides with Ellen's desire to cheat in the end of term tests, because she has been off sick for a lot of the term. When Alicia finds Ellen rummaging in her form teacher's desk, she accuses Ellen in front of the whole form of stealing. That night, Darrell catches Ellen in the classroom with the test papers in her hand. However, the real culprit is not prepared to own up and sends away the stolen purses in a parcel, which Darrell and Sally suddenly find on the nearby cliff...
This report prepared by Liza Rosette