The first day of term was always a strenuous one for the staff at Glendower House, and it was with sighs of relief that the mistresses made their way to the pretty staff sitting room to refresh themselves with coffee, chocolate biscuits, and a little light gossip.
Len Maynard threw herself into her favoured chair and took her coffee with murmured thanks to Frau Schmit, who generally presided. Miss Alton came quietly into the room.
“May I join you all?” she asked.
“With all the pleasure in life!” agreed Dollie Edwards, smiling at the Head. “There’s a cup there, and Anna provided some biscuits which are doing the rounds.”
Miss Alton acknowledged her coffee and looked round at her staff. “I am sorry to cut into your free time, especially after a tiring day like today has been but I am going to make the announcements about the exchange after Prayers tomorrow and there are one or two details I want to give you people first.”
Anna Schmit laughed. “They will be excited, I expect.”
Miss Alton nodded. “As Anna and Len know – and Maria too,” she added, smiling at her secretary, “the biggest headache has been working out who the escort mistresses are to be. If Anna and Len take the Fourth, then the rest of the school will be left without language mistresses for quite three weeks.”
Maria Penn agreed with the Head, “Juggling the timetable with two mistresses absent has been a real problem.”
“Have we solved it?” asked Dollie.
Anna and Len looked knowing and Miss Alton smiled at them before turning to the questioner. “In the best possible way. Madge Russell is going to go with Len.”
“Madge?” “Madame!” came in a chorus.
Miss Alton explained a little further. “As you know, she spent some time here last term and she feels that she should visit the Platz and see Hilda Annersley and Nell Wilson in connection with various business concerning the school. When she heard of our dilemma she offered to travel with the girls and Len, and she will stay with Jo Maynard whilst the girls are on the Platz, and then come back with them. Sir Jem is very busy with the San at present, having been away so long, so it fits in nicely for Madge to travel to Switzerland without him this term.”
“How simply smashing!” exclaimed Dollie, using language which would have brought down wrath on the head of any girl. “We had all realised that three weeks where we were two staff short was going to be more than a little tricky but this solves it beautifully – and it’s a wonderful opportunity for some of our present girls to get to know Madge too.”
The staff settled down to discussion of a plan which they were sure would delight the Fourth. “And the lower school, too, as they will have it to look forward to,” said Miss Grey thoughtfully. “The older girls may be inclined to grumble they didn’t have this opportunity.”
“There is something in that, Vi,” agreed the Head. “All the same, part of what we want the older girls to learn is to take disappointment gracefully – and they can always have a year at St Mildred’s!”
Len grinned at the Head. “Maybe we should swear the Fourth to secrecy that they are visiting Paris and Geneva!”
The next morning Miss Alton made the announcement when the school came together after Prayers. As the staff had foreseen the Fourth were wild with excitement and when Len came to her form it was far from a proper or prepared gathering which met her.
Len entered a form room to find girls gabbling wildly, without a book in sight. Drawing herself to her full height, she stalked to the mistresses’ desk and dropped her books on it, startling most of the form into silence and a rapid dash to their seats.
Only once the silence threatened to become horribly oppressive did Len speak. “You may sit, girls.”
A chastened-looking set of girls looked apprehensively at their form mistress. Len was universally considered “a poppet” but the Fourth were well aware that she considered it their business to be ready and waiting when she arrived. Len looked calmly over her form.
“Now,” she said, “understand this, please, girls. I am very pleased that you are excited about the prospect of your trip – it will be a wonderful experience for you! But you need to be absolutely clear that if we consider that your school work is suffering as a result you will not go. You will be letting me and yourselves down if that happens.”
Blushing wildly, Robyn, as form prefect rose to her feet and apologised. Len accepted the apology smilingly and allowed her form to collect the books they needed for the first half of the morning. Her warning held, and the Fourth merited the word of praise they had from the mistress as she left to go to the Third.
Left to themselves, the Fourth once again began chattering like starlings. “Maynie meant what she said, you know” said Robyn to her great friend Amy.
Jemima sat next to Amy, and caught what Robyn said, “I suppose it is up to all of us not to let her down” said Jemima.
Robyn’s eyebrows went up, but Amy was less restrained, “I think you might not want to lump us all together like that. We have some sense!” she said sharply.
Jemima’s eyes filled and she blinked impatiently. She had developed a fondness for the young mistress who had shown her such kindness and understanding the previous term and was horrified to find that Amy held her bad behaviour against her. “Perhaps the others do too,” thought the girl. Outwardly, she said “I only meant …”
“Of course” said Robyn hurriedly. Fortunately, the arrival of Miss Edwards put paid to further conversation but Jemima continued to worry about the little incident throughout the lesson which followed.