Reliable tea indeed, this novel set in a British girls' school of the 40's, in which a young mistress, Elizabeth Marks, changes from conformity to a more flexible humanity. The spur for the wholesome change is Cecily, an unpleasant cygnet of thirteen, the butt of her schoolmates' levity and Elizabeth Marks' dissatisfaction. Although Cecily's redeeming qualities are apparent to the eye of the reader from the start, they are not to Miss Marks who, however, has acquired a fiance, Tim, also a schoolteacher. Tim is the beautiful American--gruff wisdom, the kindly shoulder, chum of the oppressed. When Cecily, properly dreadful with leaking sinuses and unsettling bursts of emotion, runs away from school in lonely desperation, it is Tim who dries her tears while Miss Marks proffers punishment and in so doing loses Tim. At the end Cecily sparkles with new friendships and thinks happy thoughts; Miss Marks is sadder, wiser, tentatively hopeful re Tim... A good deal of faculty room heart-to-heart, boarding school crumgets and cruelties, and a happy ending make this child-centered fare for those with modest and nostalgic tastes in feminine fiction.