‘Mollie Maynard! Lovely to see you. How - ‘ Nell broke off, her voice muffled as Mollie flung enthusiastic arms around her. ‘Steady on, Mollie! You’re as energetic as one of our Middles! How were your holidays?’
‘Oh, same-old,’ said Mollie, whose eyes were sparkling with untold secrets. Tempting though it was to tease her news out of her, Nell restrained herself and let her lead the way indoors. After all, Mollie would tell all as soon as she wanted to - no sense in forcing a confession.
‘How were your holidays?’ Mollie asked, drawing Con into the conversation, and Nell smiled.
'It's been an interesting few weeks.'
She glanced sidelong at Con, whose eyes were demurely cast down. Mollie, thankfully, did not notice the exchange.
'Yes,' she agreed cheerfully. ‘Mine were…well, I went home, of course, and that wasn't exactly exciting, but then I went to London with my cousin and then I really did have some fun!'
'Up for the season?' Nell, not a society lady, was careful to keep the scorn from her voice
‘Not really,' said Mollie. 'The season was over before I got back - but we had some fun anyway. As a matter of fact,’ and Nell realised they had arrived at the crux of her news rather more swiftly than she had expected, ‘I’ve some grand news for you all.'
Here she broke off with a tantalising flourish, but she let her left hand rest on the arm of her chair so deliberately that no-one could mistake her meaning.
'I know!' said Mollie, running a finger over the slender diamond ring and grinning in excitement. 'Isn't it thrilling? His name's Bob - Robert Mackenzie - and I've known him ever so long, only I didn't know how he felt until last Saturday, when he got down on one knee and proposed! I’ve never been so startled in my life! But, that said, I didn't even think twice about saying ‘yes’, which I suppose is a good sign.'
'Oh, definitely,' said Nell, who was wondering why Con maintained such a gloomy silence. 'Congratulations, Mollie. Have you set the date?'
'Oh, not yet. Too much to do, and I had to get back over here. But I'll let you know as soon as I do. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep it to myself! I’m thrilled to bits about it, and as for my mother…’
'Well,' said Nell. 'If we aren't full of excitement! I hope we’re all invited?’
‘As if I’d marry without my Chalet School colleagues there to see it,’ said Mollie, with mock-indignation, and even Con managed to rouse herself into a laugh.
‘My congratulations,’ she said, and Mollie beamed.
‘Well, now,' said Nell, pressing her hands into her knees and pushing herself up, 'I'm going to see if that pesky junior mistress of ours is back yet. She ought to be - term is starting soon.'
'Miss Norman?' said Mollie. 'Oh, she's here alright. But why is she pesky?'
'Miss Norman?' Nell echoed. 'But - where's Susie?'
'Hadn't you heard?' Mollie’s face was one of consternation. 'She left at the end of last term. Mademoiselle told me just now. I assumed you'd know, Nell - you two were always so thick.'
'Well, I didn't,' said Nell, sitting down again. 'Why did she go?'
'Family problems, Mademoiselle said.'
'But she hasn't…' Got any family, Nell finished in her head, beginning to frown. What on earth was Susie up to?