A fill-in of sorts set during Exile, about the final part of their journey between them crossing the border into Switzerland and arriving at the home of Gottfried's aunt.
Ste Therese's House Characters:
Gottfried Mensch, Jack Maynard, Jo (Bettany) Maynard, Nell Wilson, Robin Humphries
Guernsey, TyrolSchool Name:
Adventure, Friendship, School Story, War
17 Sep 2017 Updated:
18 Sep 2017
1. Chapter 1 by Josie
2. Chapter 2 by Josie
3. Chapter 3 by Josie
4. Chapter 4 by Josie
5. Chapter 5 by Josie
6. Chapter 6 by Josie
7. Chapter 7 by Josie
8. Chapter 8 by Josie
9. Chapter 9 by Josie
10. Chapter 10 by Josie
11. Chapter 11 by Josie
I started writing this a long time ago, and posted the first few chapters on the CBB back in the day. I have always meant to finish it, and have finally got round to doing so. I hope you enjoy.
‘The way was not dangerous or difficult, but it was sufficiently toilsome, and they had one very nasty moment when the figure of a Swiss gendarme showed up on the horizon for a moment. Swiss gendarmes at the frontier are armed and they have no scruples about shooting at smugglers, who, thereabouts, are a hardy, daring set of fellows, and as ready to shoot as the gendarmes. Luckily, something distracted his attention, and in the five minutes his head was turned they had dashed across the frontier into Switzerland. They were safe at last!’ - Elinor Brent-Dyer, The Chalet School in Exile
They kept running until they reached the edge of the pine forest, Gottfried having impressed on them previously that they must not stop in sight of the border lest they should be seen by the guards. After they had followed him a hundred yards or so into the trees, Joey felt her legs give out. Stopping, she leant against a tall pine, and slowly slid down its trunk until she was sitting on the ground. Jeanne followed her example.
“Please Gottfried,” Joey pleaded, gasping for breath, “Can’t we just stop here a while and rest? I don’t think I can go any further.”
The young doctor stopped and, lowering Miss Wilson to the ground, looked around the group. All of them were at the end of their tether, even Hilary and the two Americans who were sturdy young things as a rule. He desperately wanted to reach his Aunt’s house before nightfall, but he realised that they were too shattered to go on. He nodded to Jack Maynard, who lowered the Robin to the ground and crouched down, placing a concerned hand on his fiancée’s dark head, which she leant against him.
“Alright, we can rest, but for no longer than an hour, then we must be on our way again. We must reach Tante Anna’s before nightfall. Until we are there I shall not feel that we are safe,” Gottfried said sternly, looking around at them all again.
In fact, both he and Jack knew that they were perfectly safe now, but they had discussed it the previous evening and felt that it was important to keep a sense of urgency instilled in the others until they reached Frau Helsen’s house. They were afraid that otherwise the girls' resolve would give out and the strain of the past days would catch up with them, something they meant to prolong until they were safely in the domain of Gottfried’s kindly aunt.
As the girls rested, Gottfried called Jack over to him and they moved out of the earshot of the rest of the group.
“Jack, I think it is essential that we reach Tante Anna’s tonight. I am not sure Nell and Jeanne, in particular, can take another night out here. And Joey is close to breaking point. I believe your idea of giving her something to sleep may not be so bad after all.”
“I agree on all counts,” Jack rejoined. “How much further do we have to go do you think?”
“On foot, seven or eight hours. But I fear that they may not be able to walk that far, and you and I are getting too tired ourselves to keep carrying Nell.”
Jack thought for a moment. “Is there a road anywhere near here that we could get to? Maybe from there we could find some transport to your aunt’s place?”
Gottfried nodded. “If we continue through the woods I believe we reach the main Zurich to Chur road. From there we would hopefully be able to find some way to get to her house, which is further along the road to Zurich.”
“Well then, that’s the plan. We’ll give them twenty more minutes of rest and then be on our way.” Jack paused, and then clasped his friend by the arm and smiled broadly. “We’re free old chap. We’re safe.” He sounded like he scarcely believed what he was saying.
The young Austrian broke into the first proper smile he had shown since leaving the Sonnalpe and slapped his friend on the shoulder as this sunk in. “Oh Jack, we did it! I am so relieved.”
Jack smiled at him. “No, Gottfried, you did it. You brought us this far.”
Gottfried shook his head and, wisely, Jack let the subject drop. He was in no doubt, however, that they all owed their lives to the brave, young man who had guided them through those awful days.
They turned the conversation to the future. “Where will you go from your aunt’s, Gottfried? Straight to Gisela?”
“I do not know yet,” he replied. “I think perhaps I shall go to Italy to my parents, and then to London from there. How about yourselves?”
Jack frowned. “I’d like to head to Guernsey as soon as possible, but I’m afraid we may have to delay things for a few weeks. I don’t think any of my party will be fit to travel on again so soon. But I won’t rest until we’re safely in Guernsey.”
Gottfried’s response was a sombre one. “I wonder how long we can remain safe anywhere in Europe. I wish for my family to travel to England as soon as possible. I fear that what has befallen my country will soon befall many others.”
There was silence for a minute as they contemplated this. Then Jack looked at his watch. “Righto,” he said briskly. “Time to get moving on. If you see to Nell’s ankle, I’ll see to rousing the others.” And with that he turned and walked back towards the group.
Miss Wilson, Cornelia and the Robin were the only ones awake when the men returned to the group, and they smiled to hear the American girl telling tales of her homeland, a place that seemed so foreign to the Robin that they kept her almost as rapt as any fairytale that Joey might create.
“Quite a story you’re telling there, Corney,” Jack said, as that young lady made good use of the more colourful side of her vocabulary.
Quite unabashed, Cornelia grinned back at him. “Well, I may not have Jo’s imagination but I guess I can spin a yarn with the best of them,” she retorted. “Is it time to set off again?”
“Certainly is,” he replied, “and I was going to ask for your help in waking the others, but your clarion tones appear to have done the job beautifully.” He looked around to see Jeanne, Lorenz and Hilary all stirring and coming to. “See to waking Evvy for me will you?”
Leaving her to see to her compatriot, he turned his attention to Joey and crouching down beside her, shook her gently by the shoulder. When she didn’t move, he shook her again, this time a little harder.
“Do stop shaking me, Jack, I’m already awake. I was just hoping that if I kept my eyes shut it would all be a dream and I’d wake up in a nice comfy bed,” and with that she sat up, rubbing her eyes.
Jack chuckled and squeezed her shoulder gently. “Never mind, dearest, if all goes well that’s where you will hopefully find yourself tomorrow morning.”
Her eyes misted over as she gazed up at his face. “Oh Jack, I do hope you’re right. Can you believe we are so close to being safe?”
As he looked at her, he had to work hard to fight the temptation to take her in his arms and tell her that they were already safe, that Hitler and his henchmen could not hurt them now. He knew though that he had to wait a little while longer to impart that knowledge, so instead he squeezed her shoulder again and dropped a quick kiss on her forehead, before standing up and going to help Gottfried bind Miss Wilson’s foot. They had almost finished when they were interrupted by a loud yell, and they turned around to see Cornelia nursing her chin, while Evadne clutched her forehead.
“Now look what you’ve done, you great splay-footed galoot!” the latter was exclaiming furiously. “What on earth made you do that?”
“Well if you weren’t so lazy I wouldn’t have had to now, would I!” Cornelia returned indignantly. “It’s not my fault if you can’t get up as normal civilized people do.”
Jack sighed and, rolling his eyes at Gottfried, who grinned in return, he stood up and crossed over to the site of the disturbance. “Shut up both of you.” He issued the order sternly. “The last thing we need is you two squabbling. Now let me look at you.”
Having satisfied himself that there were no greater injuries than Cornelia’s slightly bitten tongue, he asked for an explanation. It transpired that having shaken Evadne roughly several times, with no response, Cornelia had decided that the best course of action was to sit on her legs. She had sat down rather more heavily than intended, however, and the result was that Evadne had woken with a terrific start and, sitting bolt upright, had crashed her head into Cornelia’s chin.
“Alright, let’s leave it at that shall we? I know it wasn’t a very bright thing for Corney to do, Evvy, but it wasn’t on purpose so do stop making such a fuss. You’re not really hurt, even if your head is a bit sore,” he said, as that young lady continued to mutter under her breath.
He turned back towards Gottfried and Evadne satisfied herself with pulling a quite remarkable face at her friend. Thankfully, before Cornelia could retaliate, the Austrian stood up and announced, “Time for us to leave. Cornelia, you and Joey take the Robin with you, Hilary you take Lorenz, and Evvy please will you help Jeanne. Jack and I must carry Miss Wilson between us so Joey, if you three could also manage our bags please? We must walk until we reach the road, then we can rest again.”
And with that, the two doctors made a queen’s chair with their arms and when Miss Wilson was settled comfortably, they set off again, deeper into the forest.
For two hours, they tramped in semi-darkness through the thick pines. The ground was uneven, tree roots and stones sticking up at odd angles, and more than one of them stumbled as their wearying feet failed to lift sufficiently off the ground. The going was far slower than the two doctors would have liked, but they dared not press on too hard, for fear of pushing any of the weaker members of their party over the edge and thereby halting progress altogether.
Eventually, just as one or two of them were beginning to feel that they could walk no further, they heard the sound of a motor car and quite suddenly, the trees began to thin out and the road came into view. The doctors stopped and lowered Miss Wilson to the ground where she leaned on Jack’s shoulder. Gottfried turned to face the girls.
“You can all rest here now in this clearing. Dr Jack and I must go and find transport to get us to my aunt's. We will return in a short while. Please do not wander out of sight of this place as we do not know how long we will be and you must be ready to leave immediately on our return. And try to remain friends,” he added looking pointedly at the two Americans, who were still inclined to squabble, “we still have some way to go yet.”
As his colleague spoke, Jack lowered Miss Wilson to a sitting position against the trunk of an old pine and moved to examine her ankle. “Joey, can you come and help here please?” he requested. As she came over, Jack held the ankle up a foot in the air as Miss Wilson winced with pain. “Can you keep Nell’s ankle elevated at no less than this angle whilst we are gone?” he asked her quietly. “It will help relieve the pain for her.”
Joey nodded and sat down beside her friend, bending her knees up and resting the ankle on top of them. Nell smiled at her gratefully as she felt the pain subside slightly, and the two doctors took their leave.
Sitting down pointedly between Corney and Evvy, Hilary heaved a sigh and looked around her. “Just think, this time tomorrow we’ll have all had long hot baths and a proper meal!” she said grinning.
“Say, why is it okay for you to talk about baths and things but it wasn’t okay for me to?” put in Evadne, who was still aggrieved at her rude awakening and was thoroughly cross-patch as a result.
“Because this is different. This morning we were still in Tirol. Now we’re in Switzerland and almost safe.” Ignoring the glare she got in return, she continued, “What are you all most looking forward to? For me, it has to be just being clean again!”
“Bed for me, definitely,” replied Jo. “If only to wake up and not find my hair full of pine needles!”
“Food for me!” This came from Cornelia. “Say, what wouldn’t you give for one of Karen’s stews right now? And some apfel strudel and sticky cakes and a good cup of coffee and…”
“I look forward most to getting to Guernsey and seeing Tante Guito and Onkel Jem again,” came a small voice, and they all looked at Robin.
Evadne sat up. “That’s hoping they’re even in Guernsey. Do you think they got away from the Sonnalpe alright after all that happened? Who knows what Hitler’s goons may have done!”
At this, Robin’s eyes widened and filled with tears. “Oh Evvy! You don’t think…”
“Of course she doesn’t!” Jo interrupted, glowering at Evadne. “Rob, come here my darling. It’ll all be alright, you’ll see. Madge’ll be in Guernsey just waiting for us to arrive,” she said as she hugged the younger girl to her, though she wasn’t entirely sure she believed it herself.
“Evvy, you ass!” hissed Hilary. “What did you have to go and say that for?”
Stricken at upsetting Robin and still in a temper, Evadne snapped back, “I didn’t mean to upset her! I was just saying what we all thought!”
“Well next time keep it to yourself. What’s wrong with you today anyway? It’s not like you to be this foul!”
Evadne stood up. “Nothing’s wrong with me. And I’d thank you to keep your opinions to yourself!” she retorted, and feeling thoroughly put-upon, she stalked off to sit on her own.
Meanwhile, Jack and Gottfried had crossed over the road and were making their way down the valley towards the village on the shelf below. The grass was very green and their legs were tired, so the going was slow.
“Do you think we’ll be able to get motors here?” Jack asked doubtfully, his hand clawing the air as his foot slipped.
Gottfried shook his head. “I do not think a car would be the best thing anyhow. There are too many of us for one motor and I fear it will be far harder for us to procure two. It would mean two journeys and I do not think we can leave half of the party behind to come back for them. It would not be fair now. But I can see one or two farms down here, perhaps one of them will be able to make a loan of a haycart and horse to us.”
“But will that not take an age to get there?”
“Perhaps, but it will get us there, at least, and all together.”
Jack nodded at the wisdom of this, and then changed the tack of the conversation. “Gottfried, will your aunt know of a medical man in Bad Ragaz or Chur? We really need to get Nell’s ankle seen to immediately. I know she’s being incredibly stoic, but she is in considerable pain and we don’t have the supplies to be able to tend to it ourselves.”
“I am sure that she will. We will ask when we arrive. And if not then I have a cousin who works in the League of Nations. He is sure to know of somebody who can help us. And we shall ask his help to get a message to the Sonnalpe and to the girls’ parents also.”
“Good plan.” He chuckled, “Jo wasn’t as far out as she thought when she said we could enlist the help of the League was she?”
Gottfried smiled and then they fell silent, as they negotiated the rest of the grass slope leading down to the village. They reached the road ten minutes later and set off towards the nearest dwelling. The first door was slammed in their face, as was the next, and there was no answer from the next three, though they could tell that people were in. They were so used to the friendliness of the people in the villages around the Sonnalpe, that this attitude was a great shock to them. They were forgetting that even though the villagers in Tirol may have been strangers to them, everyone had heard of the English school at the Tiernsee and the great Sanatorium, and they were welcomed as old friends by the locals wherever they went. Here they were complete unknowns, and although Switzerland was at no threat from the Nazi Regime, people were still tense and suspicious of strangers.
Jack sat down on a fallen log at the side of the road and sighed. Even Gottfried was starting to feel dispirited. They had been so sure that their difficulties were over. That they would run up against this had never occurred to them.
They had been sitting at the side of the road for almost an hour wondering what to do, when their thoughts were interrupted by a small voice speaking to them in German.
“Excuse me, but my papa says will you come with me to our house please?”
Gottfried looked up and smiled wearily at the small boy standing in front of them. “And who might your Papa be?”
“He owns the big farm over there. He wishes to talk with you.”
Gottfried looked at Jack, who thought for a moment, then spoke to his friend in English so the youngster could not follow what they said. “He’s only a lad, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to at least go and see what he wants.”
Gottfried nodded, “That is very true. Also, we are not in Austria any longer, I do not think there is any danger here.” He turned back to the boy and spoke in his own tongue, “Alright, we will come with you,” and the two men got to their feet and followed the small boy in the direction he had pointed, towards a large farmhouse set in fields on the edge of the village.
They were met at the door by a big, fair man who greeted them with a jovial smile and invited them into the front room. He pointed them towards the table and his wife offered them steaming bowls of goat’s milk which they drank down gratefully, having had no food since Frühstück.
Once the milk was finished, Gottfried turned to the farmer. “Sir, your son informed us that you wished to speak with us?”
The farmer nodded and looked from one the other. “Yes, there is a rumour in the village that you wish to borrow some transport to travel towwards Zurich?”
“That is true, but people have not been willing to help.”
“Please forgive the inhospitable nature of many people but as I am sure you can appreciate, we are wary of strangers in these difficult times. However, I believe I may be of assistance to you in this matter. But first, please tell me, if you will, how you come to be in these parts.”
Suddenly able to see a possible end to their interminable adventure, the two men willingly expounded their story of the past days, leaving nothing out, and by the time they finished the farmer and his wife were listening awestruck, unable to believe what they had heard. As Jack finished speaking, their host sat up and faced them across the table.
“I am so sorry to hear of your terrible ordeal. Perhaps I can bring you some hope that your journey may now be at an end. May I ask how many there are in your party?”
“Ten, including ourselves.”
“Then I believe your troubles are finally over. I am afraid we do not have a motor that we can lend to you, but perhaps you can be persuaded to let me take you there myself in my old charabanc? It will be slow, but it will do the job I think. Will you accept?”
Gottfried looked at Jack with wide eyes, relief flooding through his body, and the nod and smile he received in return confirmed that his friend was feeling the same. “We will accept with pleasure, Sir. Thank you so much for your kindness,” and with things finally going their way, the two men relaxed for the first time since leaving the Sonnalpe.
Back in the forest, the atmosphere was tense as the others tried to occupy themselves as best they could until Jack and Gottfried returned. Still angry with Evadne for her earlier comments, Joey sat in silence, the Robin curled up asleep by her side and Miss Wilson’s foot propped up on her legs. For her part, Evadne remained seated a little way away, her back to the others, drawing pictures in the dirt with her index finger and brooding on how her morning had turned out. The rest of the party were keeping as busy as they could. Trying to keep her mind off her pain, Miss Wilson was telling Hilary and Jeanne all about the Channel Islands, where she had holidayed once as a young girl, and Lorenz and Cornelia were playing tic-tac-toe, using pine needles, twigs and stones.
Just as Lorenz completed a line of crosses, beating Cornelia for the sixth time in a row, they heard the sound of a noisy engine from the direction of the road. Forgetting all about the game, Cornelia jumped to her feet, scattering their ‘board’ and ‘counters’ as she did so.
“I reckon that’s them!” she cried, peering through the pines as the sound of the engine stopped and they heard a door open and then slam.
The next moment, a familiar cry of “Ahoy there” came in their direction and Lorenz, Jeanne, and Hilary all scrambled up and ran to join Corney at the edge of the clearing. Even Joey woke from her reverie and turned suddenly in the direction from which the cry had come.
“Jack!” As she twisted round, a strangled yelp came from Miss Wilson, as a sharp pain shot up her leg, and Joey turned back, remorse on her face. “Oh, Nell I’m sorry!”
Miss Wilson winced and shook her head, but before she could reply, they all heard the sound of twigs cracking underfoot and suddenly Jack and Gottfried came into view.
“Everybody ready to go?” Jack asked, a wide smile on his face as he reached them.
Cornelia grinned back at him. “Ready as we’ll ever be! I’ll go fetch Evvy.”
As Gottfried made his way across to Miss Wilson to examine her ankle, Jack frowned as he watched the American girl run across to her compatriot, calling for Evadne with a shout of “Buck up, Evvy! They’re here!”
“What’s going on there?” he asked, in low tones, as he watched Evadne turn, stand up and walk towards them, her mouth still set in a straight line.
“Just Evvy being an ass, as usual!” Joey put in, before Hilary, to whom this question had been directed, could give a reply.
She had not bothered to keep her voice down and Evadne, who heard the comment loud and clear, flushed red and scowled at her friend. Thankfully, before she could utter the retort that was on the tip of her tongue, Gottfried intervened.
“Joey, you go on to the road,” he stated, or rather, ordered, as he got to his feet. “The farmer is waiting there with his vehicle. Take Robin and Lorenz with you, please, and tell Herr Böller that we will be along shortly. No, leave the bags,” he added, as Joey bent to pick up the one nearest to her. “We will bring those on behind.”
Ignoring the glare that Evadne shot in her direction, Joey gathered the two youngsters together and did as he asked, giving her fiancé’s arm a squeeze as she passed him. Then, as the three of them disappeared into the pine trees, Gottfried turned to the others.
“Hilary, you and Jeanne go on ahead too. Evvy and Corney, if you could please help with all the belongings? There are not so many, you should easily manage with two of you. Dr. Jack and I must see to Miss Wilson.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, you don’t have to see to me!”
At the sound of the stern voice behind them, Gottfried and Jack left the two Americans gathering up the bags and turned back to Nell Wilson.
“I can see to myself perfectly well, thank you!” that lady announced as they stared at her. “You’ve carried me more than enough already.”
True to her word, she set her hands on the floor either side of her and tried to heave herself to her feet. The next second, she let out a muffled squawk of pain and collapsed back onto the ground again.
“You were saying?” Jack asked, eyebrows raised as she leant back against the pine behind her and took a deep breath. Nell opened her eyes, glared up at him and muttered something under her breath. “Now,” Jack continued, ignoring her, “either we carry you or leave you here. Your choice.”
“You’ll get what’s coming to you, Jack Maynard!” Nell retorted, but her relief was evident in her face as the two doctors bent down and on the count of three, lifted her up in their strong arms. Then, after checking that she was as comfortable as could be, they followed the two Americans out of the clearing, paying no attention to her continued mutterings as they went.
To say that Frau von Hessel was startled to see them was an understatement of massive proportions. Thinking that the clatter coming down her driveway was her neighbour, who had offered to collect her groceries on his trip into town, she made her way to the front of her house to greet him. What a shock she received when she opened the front door to see a noisy old charabanc, that had certainly seen better days, making its way down the track towards her, with its cargo of what appeared to be a large local peasant family.
As the vehicle drew to a halt before her, a tall, blonde man jumped from the front seat, a wide grin on his face. Though he looked familiar, for a moment Anna von Hessel had a problem placing him. When he came towards her with a cry of “Tante Anna”, his arms outstretched in greeting, she almost fainted on the spot. Surely this could not be Gottfried, her beloved nephew, son of her sister in Innsbruck? He was always so handsome, so smartly turned out. And yet the moment he spoke, she knew, beyond all doubt, that it was he.
Once she was over her initial shock, she welcomed them into her home with open arms. It was obvious that they had been through some sort of horrific ordeal, and putting two and two together, having heard, of course, about the Anschluss and knowing that her nephew worked in a Sanatorium above the Tiernsee, she realised that for whatever reason they had had to take flight. She was wise enough, however, to leave any questions for now and instead busied herself with helping them all disembark as quickly as possible. While Gottfried bade farewell to the kindly farmer, who refused all manner of payment and offers of food and drink, the girls all clambered down from the charabanc, Joey and Cornelia helping Jack to lower Miss Wilson to the ground.
“We should take a photo really,” Hilary remarked, as she stretched and looked around her. “record this moment for the history books. The Tiernsee refugees! It’s only a shame we don’t have a camera.”
“But we do have one!” Lorenz put in, turning to face Evadne who had plonked herself down flat on her back on the grass nearby. “Evvy, you had yours that day when we were in Spärtz, remember? You were taking lots of pictures so that you would have the memories when we left.”
“Say, so I did! I’d clean forgotten about that!"
Scrambling to her feet, her previous grievances forgotten, Evadne rushed over to the bags and began fishing about, trying to remember where her meagre belongings had ended up. It didn’t take her long to locate it. They had only brought their valuables with them, even leaving their clothes behind in Tirol. The camera was duly fished out and passed to Tante Anna, who instructed them all to gather around Miss Wilson and then snapped a hurried photo. As soon as this as done, Jack helped Miss Wilson up and as he and Gottfried lifted her into their arms once more, Frau von Hessel ushered them all inside.
Bath, followed by immediate bed, was decreed the order of the day for Nell Wilson, Joey and the two youngsters who, now that they were safe and the adrenaline had begun to wear off, were almost asleep on their feet. Joey protested lamely that she was “simply famished”, but Jack refused to budge, informing her that her dinner could just as easily be put on a tray and carried to her room. The others were deemed well enough to partake of their meal downstairs, even Jeanne who had perked up slightly since their arrival at Tante Anna's, and an hour later, they were all to be found gathered around the large dining table, chattering amongst themselves as delicious smells wafted through from the kitchen.
Having settled Miss Wilson as comfortably as possible, the two men finally arrived to join them, eliciting a shout of laughter from those around the table. Tante Anna had done her best to rustle up some clean clothes for them all and had come up with an interesting array of old things that had belonged to herself and her daughter. For the doctors, she had unearthed some of her late husband’s things. Herr von Hessel had been somewhat on the large side, to say the least, and the trousers in particular were quite literally falling off Gottfried and Jack. The contrast to their usual smart, dapper appearance had to be seen to believed. Still, as Jack pointed out as he took his seat and helped himself to a large portion of cold meats, they didn’t really look much funnier than the others, especially Jeanne and Evadne who were mere slips of things and appeared to be drowning in Tante Anna’s full skirts.
Over the delicious meal of cold cuts, vegetables and fresh bread, still warm from the oven, Gottfried explained everything to his aunt and once she had finished exclaiming in disbelief and wringing her hands, telling him over and over again how awful it all was, she said that she was happy to have them stay as long as they needed. Assuming the role of matriarch over the girls now in her care, she watched them like hawks as they ate their meal, ensuring they all had a good amount before allowing them to put down their knives and forks. Then, as soon dinner was over, while Jack and Gottfried retired to the garden for a smoke, she sent the girls upstairs, with strict instructions to go straight to bed. Not that they needed telling twice. The promise of a comfortable mattress, clean sheets and a good night’s sleep was enough to move them on in double-quick time, and more than one of them was tucked up between the covers in record time.
Meanwhile, on the terrace, the two doctors were having an anxious conversation regarding their party’s state of health and, in particular, Miss Wilson’s ankle.
“I’ve asked Tante Anna about a doctor and she gave me the name of her own man in Chur,” Jack informed his companion. “I’ll pay him a visit tomorrow, see if I can get provisions. I’ll see to getting something for Joey as well. I slipped a dose in her milk this evening, but it was all your aunt had. It was left from when she had difficulty sleeping, apparently, after her husband died.”
Gottfried took a long drag on his cigarette, taking his time before he replied. “I believe that you will need to keep a close watch on Joey now, Jack. She will suffer far more now things are over and she has time to reflect on what has passed.”
Jack nodded in agreement, worry furrowing his brow, and the two men lapsed into silence. It was a few minutes before Gottfried spoke once more.
“Tomorrow I will go early to Geneva, to pay a visit to my cousin who works at the League. I will ask him to get word to the Sonnalpe and also to the girls’ parents. He will know the best way.”
“The girls’ parents shouldn’t be a problem. None of them are too far away.” Jack replied, as he stared across the gardens, just visible as dusk turned to night. “Lorenz informed me that her father is currently in Milan on business and has his wife and little Ilonka with him. I believe they plan to head to London once he’s done with his work. Even Mr. Flower is out of Austria. I saw him the day before we had to leave, and he told me he was heading to Paris that very day to carry out some business. And I believe the Lannises were due to meet him there not long afterwards. The two girls were to have joined them there. It’s just Jem and Madge who’ll be a bother to get word to.”
“Do not worry, Cousin Hannes will find a way.” Gottfried stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray Tante Anna had provided and then heaved a sigh. “I have an early start tomorrow so I should retire to bed.”
Jack grinned. “Retire to bed. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
“It most certainly does.” Reaching out, Gottfried clapped Jack on the shoulder. “Good night, Jack, my friend.”
Jack smiled. “’Night old chap. Sleep well. See you on the ‘morrow.”
Gottfried disappeared back into the house, and Jack waited only to finish his smoke, before following on behind. Bidding Tante Anna goodnight, he made his way upstairs, checking briefly in each bedroom to make sure that the girls were all slumbering peacefully. The only person still awake was Hilary, who sat up as her door opened.
“Dr. Jack, is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me,” Jack whispered, hastily bringing a finger to his lips. “And do keep your voice down, you’ll wake Jeanne if you’re not careful.”
Hilary glanced guiltily at her slumbering roommate and lowered her voice. “Dr. Jack, how will our parents know where to find us?” she asked, voicing a question that had been troubling her all evening.
“Dr. Mensch will see to that in the morning, don’t you worry.”
“Oh, good’o!” Satisfied, Hilary snuggled back under her sheets again. “Goodnight!”
“Goodnight, Hilary. Make sure you get some sleep now or I’ll be back with a dose.”
Hilary hastily turned her back on him and closed her eyes, and Jack smiled to himself as he withdrew from the room and headed across the corridor to Joey. She was slumbering somewhat peacefully, thanks to the dose he had administered, but even in just the glow from the moonlight, he could see the high colour in her cheekbones, standing out against her pale skin. His brow furrowed with worry, he sat down carefully on the edge of her bed, placing the back of his hand on her forehead, thankful to find it only a little warm.
Moving his hand to her dark locks, he gazed down at the pale pointed face that was so dear to him, glad that she should at least be able to get this one night of peaceful slumber before being troubled by the nightmares that he was sure would come.
“I’ll get us to Guernsey safely my darling, I promise you,” he whispered, running his hand gently across her hair. “And Madge and Jem and everyone’ll be there waiting for us, you’ll see.”
Jo stirred slightly in her sleep and, wary of disturbing her in any way, Jack dropped a soft kiss on the side of her head and then stood up as carefully as he could and made his way out of her room and down the corridor to his own.
Taking off his shoes, he changed quickly into the enormous nightshirt that Tante Anna had provided, pulled out his rosary and knelt to say his prayers. Then, getting to his feet again, he slid between the sheets, savouring the comfort of being in a real bed at last, and within minutes he was fast asleep.
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