Growing Wings by jennifer
Summary:

Set ten years after the end of the main series. 

Cecilia Maynard is in Upper Sixth, and finally finds her place in the school. The Chalet School has a new Headmistress, and faces the need to update the school system, which produces mixed reactions.  Meanwhile, her older siblings and cousins are off leading interesting lives, if not always the ones their parents approve of. 

 

 


Categories: Ste Therese's House Characters: Cecil Maynard
School Period: Future
School Name: Chalet School
Genre: Family, School Story
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 10 Completed: No Word count: 17443 Read: 23708 Published: 22 Aug 2014 Updated: 23 Aug 2014

1. A New Term by jennifer

2. A Prefect by jennifer

3. New Ideas by jennifer

4. The Staff by jennifer

5. Joey's Reaction by jennifer

6. Christmas by jennifer

7. Winter Term by jennifer

8. A New Chalet School by jennifer

9. Joey and Jack by jennifer

10. Reunion Time by jennifer

A New Term by jennifer

"I have got to get out of here!"  the fifteen year old girl exclaimed, stomping into the room in a decidedly unladylike fashion.

"What is it now?" asked the other girl, looking up from her letter.

She flopped down on the bed in defiance of all dormitory rules. "Nothing new, just the same old stuff, over and over again.  I feel like I'm being nibbled to death by ducks.  Mamma and Papa seems to think that locking me up on the Platz and keeping me away from any undesirable influences will turn me into some sort of sweet little nineteenth century maiden.  It's not like it worked for any of the others."

"It's not that bad."

"Come on, your mother is safely tucked away in another country, and she doesn't seem to be stuck in another century. Your mother doesn't wander over the school every time she's bored to chat with the headmistress and check up on your morals and manners. Your mother isn't trying to convince you to grow out your hair so you can put it up like a proper young lady.  Your mother isn't dropping hints about nice young doctors at the San.  Like I want some old goat making eyes at me and commenting on what a good housekeeper I am." Cecilia Maynard leaned back on the bed with her curly head on her linked hands as she contemplated life with a disgruntled expression.

"True," replied Daphne Bettany with a laugh.  "But I have this aunt who keeps sending detailed reports about absolutely everything I do to my mother, with commentary, mind you.  And keeps buying me sweet little frocks for my birthday.  And giving me little inspirational chats about how I should dig in and study harder. And if she doesn't stop fussing over me every time I so much as get caught in the rain and trying to get me to drink hot milk I may scream.  I loathe hot milk. "

"Well, yes, I suppose.  At least you get out in the holidays. I'm stuck here year round. The girls sunk into a glum reflection which was interrupted by the sounds of a clear, bell like voice floating up from the lower reaches of the house.  "Cecelia, it's time to supervise your sisters' packing!"

Cecilia rolled her eyes and hauled herself up off the bed.  "I swear, I'm never having kids.  I've had enough of it to last me the rest of my life. Come on, you're not getting out of it either."  Daphne put down her letter with a laugh and the two girls headed downwstairs.

*******

Physically, Daphne and Cecilia were so alike they were often mistaken for twins by strangers. A few months apart in age, both were of average height with slender builds, and both were extremely pretty young women.  They shared dark brown hair, bobbed in a halo of loose curls, eyes so deep a brown they were almost black, and clear, fair skin with pink cheeks and delicate features. The only significant difference was their voices; Daphne a light, clear soprano and Cecilia a clear, deep alto.

However, while there may have been two girls in the school with more different personalities and talents, you would have had to work hard to find them.  It was a source of continued surprise to both their peers and elders that they were such good friends.

Daphne was a cheerful, bubbly, featherheaded young girl, rather spoiled, but fairly easy going over all.  By far the youngest of her large family, born after her mother's serious illness, she had grow up essentially as a much petted only child.  When she was six, a bad cold after a wetting had developed into pneumonia, and she had been frail for years afterwards. Not strong enough for school, she had been taught at home and cosseted carefully until she had finally been deemed old enough to join the school in the clear air of Switzerland at the age of thirteen.  She had remained remarkably sweet tempered, but still expected to be the centre of attention, and to have things go her way.  She was charming and persusasive enough that things usually did.  Daphne was a friendly, caring girl, but had no particularly deep insight into other people's motives and actions, and was inclined to enjoy life as it came.

Although no dunce Daphne was not academically gifted.  Her childhood illness, combined with years of home tutoring, had left her a fair way behind her peers in school work, and the struggle of adapting to the school's enforced trilingualism while dealing with being away from home for the first time had set her back further.  Consequently, at the age of not quite sixteen she was still only just starting Vb. She was, however, both musical and artistic, and sang and played the violin and piano.

Cecilia, on the other hand, was near the end of a long family, sandwiched between sets of twins, and with a frail younger sister.  As a child her care had been parcelled out between Anna and Rosli, her parents and her various older sisters, and she had been packed off to the neighbours whenever Phil was poorly. As she got older, she was expected to be responsible for the five younger children when necessary.  Cecilia lacked Daphne's cheerful good natured friendliness: she was an intense, stubborn girl.  As a child she had driven her parents and mistresses up the wall with her continued queries of "But why?" when faced with seemingly meaningless rules and restrictions.  She wasn't unfriendly, but she was a self contained, rather private girl and made few close friends.  She had learned to keep her keen perception and talent for seeing beyond the surface of things to herself, however, particularly when her insights involved her family or the mistresses.

Cecilia was far and away the brightest of what was in general a very bright family.  She soaked up knowledge like a sponge, with a nearly photographic memory and a quick grasp of ideas. At the same time, she followed her own path.  If a topic interested her she performed brilliantly at it, producing work that wouldn't shame a university student. If it didn't catch her fancy the resultant work was competently done, but without any spark or creativity to it.  No amount of lectures or punishment could convince her to pay attention in class: when she was fourteen the mistresses had taken to frisking her when she entered class, to remove any other books she could read during the lecture. However, whenever a question was directed at her, she inevitably answered correctly.

As a result, at not yet sixteen Cecilia was already in Upper Sixth. An attempt, three years earlier, to keep her in Inter V for a term until she was old enough to be a senior had backfired when she flared into outright rebellion, stubbornly refusing to spend a year reviewing work she had found too easy the first time.  The school had been forced to pass her up to the next level when she had demonstrated that she could take the Inter V exams at the beginning of the year and pass with top marks.


*******


Cecilia and Daphne came down the stairs to the usual scene of pre-term chaos.  Thirteen year old Phil was contientiously working on her packing, surrounded by a sea of school frocks and other official outfits. After suffering polio as a child Phil was still rather frail, and would probably limp slightly for the rest of her life.  She was a shy, quiet, bookish girl, content to stay in the background and hating to be fussed over.  Tall and lanky, she was not particularly pretty but had striking features; wavy auburn hair and big blue eyes in a narrow, high cheekboned face.


Twelve year old Claire was nowhere to be seen, but her voice could be heard in the background, wailing about the apparent disappearance of her winter coat.  Claire was a very pretty girl, with thick, dark hair, dark, heavy lidded eyes and lithe, graceful build.  She was also a confirmed tomboy who was happiest running around outside, and hated having to sit still in a classroom.


Thirteen year old Geoff and eight year old Rob had already gone off to school in England, but Rob's twin Rowena was preparing for her first term as a full boarder, her chin length straight hair in fiery red confusion as she dumped armloads of possessions in the middle of the floor, her grey eyes wide with excitement.  Rowena was an imp of mischief, full of energy and enthusiasm bursting out in all directions, if not necessarily the most constructive ones.


Cecilia stared at the confusion and looked at Daphne in resignation. "You want to take Claire and I'll take Ro?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.


"Sure, why not."  Daphne headed towards the wails in the back room, while Cecilia approached her youngest sister.


"Come on, Ro, you can't take everything with you, let's sort out some of those toys.  Remember, you can come back later if you miss something."  She faced the excitedly bouncing young girl and the pile of toys with a rueful expression.


*******


Later that evening in the quiet of her own room, Cecilia contemplated the coming year, her final one at school.  Being a student at the Chalet School hadn't been easy: at times she felt weighed down by the mass of history preceding her.


The illustrious list of older cousins and sisters who had preceded her was daunting: her Aunt had founded the school, her mother was the first pupil and one of the early Head Girls.  Her oldest sister and six of her cousins had been Head Girls, and all the others (with the exception of Primula) had been prefects in their last two years of school, as had both her older foster sisters.  To the younger Cecilia it had seemed like no matter what she did, she could never do something that was entirely hers; it was always met by a story or reminiscence about some older relative in a similar situation. The situation wasn't helped by the large number of old girls as mistresses who actually remembered the rest of her family in detail. 


Cecilia thought ruefully of the mixed legacy her older sisters had left her with.  At school she was burdened with stories of her talented, well behaved, popular older sisters and cousins and the continual feeling that she could never live up to their reputation, which seemed to be only be growing with time.
At home, however, the story was very different.  All her sisters and girl-cousins were leading interesting, independent lives, and seemed well content, but few of them had followed the plans that their older relatives had set out for them.  Mother and Auntie Madge had grown increasingly discontented (with occasional lapses into shocked and appalled) with the paths their offspring had taken.


Her reflections were interrupted with by a whispered "Psst!" from the doorway.  She looked up to see her cousin waiting at the door, wrapped in an overly large red dressing gown.  "I can't sleep, want to talk?"


"Sure, we'll be back to 9 pm bedtimes and dormy rules soon enough," Cecilia scrunched up on the bed, leaving room for the other girl. "What's up?"


Daphne shrugged. "Just thinking about another year at the nunnery.  I really wish they could move into the twentieth century.  Seriously, where else are girls expected to embroider in their spare time and spend their evenings doing country dancing with other girls and playing paper games."


"Tell me about it. While we're at it, why don't we kick my parents out of the Victorian age too. Nobody seems to have told them that girls no longer put their hair up at eighteen, wear twinsets and pearls, and demurely submit to all their parent's wishes. I really wish I knew where they got this obsession with instant, unquestioning obedience. You'd think by almost sixteen I'd be allowed to go to a movie occasionally or something like that. I keep expecting them to dig out petticoats and hoop skirts for me."


Daphne giggled, hurriedly hushing the noise.  "Well, it's your last year at least. I'm stuck there for another three at least. I may die of boredom. What are you going to do after you leave, anyways."
Cecilia shrugged.  "I have absolutely no idea.  Mamma and Papa were muttering about St Mildred's, but really, could you see me in a finishing school learning proper deportment and studying appropriately ladylike subjects with that bunch of overbred nitwits?"


"Umm, I suppose not. What about uni?"


"Not yet.  I'll still be sixteen when I graduate, and that's too young to be in university.  Besides, I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I don't know enough about life to choose what I want to do with my life. I don't even know enough about life to know how to go about finding out about life. I've spent almost sixteen years stuck on the Platz where everyone we meet is either with the school or with the San, and it's like being stuck in some sort of time warp. I'm bored stiff!"


"You think they'll let you leave, after Len, and Con, and Margot, and Felicity?"


"Not to mention Sybil and Josette.  You're right, they'll probably chain me in my bedroom until I'm thirty and safely married off to some doctor, ready to produce some grandchildren."

 

A Prefect by jennifer


Len had been the first to branch off from her planned future, breaking her engagement with Reg in her final year of university to follow a career teaching in the state school system.  She was now happily ensconced in the North of England, teaching modern languages at a big primary school.  She still hadn't married, but had been seeing a teacher from the nearby secondary school.  Joey had been nearly hysterical when the relationship with Reg ended, and with it her dreams of having Len and her husband settled in a wing of Freudesheim, with Len raising lots of babies and volunteering at the school.

Con had been next, with her career in journalism.  Her initial forays into writing hadn't gone particularly well, but she had found her true gift in television. She was now the co-host of a talk show, and was gaining a reputation for her pointed and insightful interviews of the famous and powerful.  Her gifts of perception served her well when it came to figuring out just what questions a politician or leader did not want asked.  Joey was still dubious about whether this was an acceptably ladylike career (writing historical novels would have been so much more appropriate) and it was probably good thing that Freudesheim still did not yet have a television.  It was probably even better that Joey hadn't gotten wind of Con's succession of handsome, charming boyfriends.

Margot had finished her medical training but had finally, and with much soul searching, decided not to enter a religious order, due to serious reservations about some of the Vatican's policies.  The rest of her plans had held, however, and she was off in Brazil at the moment, running an immunisation clinic and training local medics, adding Portugese to her list of languages.  She was becoming heavily involved in international activism, campaigning for improved health and education in third world countries, and had found a career that absorbed all her interests and energy.  However, both Joey and Jack had been deeply disappointed that she had turned away from her plan of taking religious vows, and were still convinced that knitting undershirts for poor families was a much more appropriate form of charity than marching in demonstrations and risking arrest. 

Felicity had pursued ballet with single minded obsession until the age of thirteen, when a sudden growth spurt shot her up to nearly six feet in a little over two years. She remained slender and strikingly beautiful, and with her vividw colouring and graceful carriage was much in demand as fashion model in Milan, having started after leaving school at the age of seventeen. University had not been an option - Flixy was definitely the academic dunce of the family, even though she was quick witted and had a keen sense of real world practicality which served her well in her career.  Her parents were still at the bemused stage and hadn't quite decided what they thought about their fourth daughter's choice of career.

********


"I'm a what?!"


"A prefect.  Surely you're familiar with the concept," Miss Ferrars looked at Cecilia with an expression of amusement.


"But, why me?  I'm only fifteen!"


"True, but you are in Upper Sixth and this is your last year of school.  You have also repeatedly demonstrated that the academic work provided by the school is not sufficient to occupy your attention, so I do not see a problem balancing work and school. We aren't asking you to be Head Girl, but you are fully capable of acting as a prefect," The Headmistress looked at the younger girl expectantly.
Cecilia paused, twisting her hands in front of her. "This isn't..." she paused.


"Isn't what?"


"Isn't my about my family?" she got out in a rush, and stood there, looking much younger than her fifteen years.


"Your family?"


"Yes. Everyone else in my family has been a prefect, and I don't want to be made one just to follow Maynard tradition.  I've never been form prefect or dormy prefect or anything like that before, and, well, I'm not exactly much of a leader."


Miss Ferrars sat back with a thoughtful look.  She was new to the post of Headmistress, having succeeded Miss Annersley on her retirement the year before, and was still feeling her way into her new responsibilities.  "No, your sisters weren't considered when we made this decision.  Your length of time at the school was, however, and your familiarity with school traditions.  It will give a challenge, and a change to stretch your abilities."


"Okay, I suppose."


********

"Is that everyone?  Then let's get started."

The prefects of the Chalet school seated themselves around the wide table.  The Head Girl, Carlotta von Ahlen, looked around at her fellow grandees.  "Margie, what's on the agenda for today?"


Marjorie Graves, the second prefect, looked at her notes. "Evening activities for the term, plus the results of the tryouts for school teams."


Lisa Morrison, the Games Prefect, looked up, shaking curly brown hair back from her freckled face.  "What are we going to do about the evening entertainment?  I don't think country dancing and tableaux are going to cut it among the older girls this year: there was enough complaining about it last year."


"Can anyone think of anything else?" asked Chris Willoughby, the magazine prefect.  "We've done paper games, we've done tableaux, we've done obstacle courses and sheets and pillowcase parties and treasure hunts and costume contests and book games and pretty much everything you can do with crepe paper and pins."  This was delivered at the rapid fire pace typical of the short, dark haired girl.


Bethany Atherton, the second Games Prefect, broke in.  "We could always ask our parents and older sisters if they have any good ideas from when they were here."


"No," Cecilia spoke up for the first time that meeting.  "We need something new."  The others looked over at the youngest of the prefects.


"What do you mean?" asked Carlotta.


"We need something new.  Something that hasn't been done by our mothers and sisters and aunts and cousins.  We've been doing the same things over and over since the school was founded forty years ago, and we can't seem to move past it." She paused for a moment, thinking intently. "Things need to be shaken up or the school is going to be playing charades and having sheets and pillowcases parties into the next century and it'll be our children sitting here complaining about it."


Hilary Simpson, the Hobbies prefect, snorted in a decidedly unladylike fashion.  "Can we ditch the raffia mats and embroidery lessons while we're at it?  I can see learning mending and basic sewing, but who embroiders these days?  Mum was complaining about all the junk she ends up with after the school sale.  There are only so many badly made placemats and embroidered tea cloths that any one person needs." 

The music prefect, Vreneli Zinkel, added her two cents. "I'd love some new options for music. I like classical music and folk music, but there's a lot of other music out there.  Some rock records for the evening dancing would be fantastic, or some more modern music for choir, or an option to learn guitar along with violin and cello."


"Or a chance to go to the movies!"


"How about a dance with rock music and actual boys to dance with.  It's so hard to cram all your fun into the holidays."


"Or books that were written in this half of the century."


"But what can we do about it?  This is the way they've always done things, and they don't generally ask the prefects when it comes to school policy."


Cecilia sat up with an intent expression on her face, and the others paused to wait to hear what she had to say. "We need to think about this. If we go to the staff and whinge on about all the things we can't do, they're just going to ignore us, or brush us off and tell us that there's no need to try to be fast.  Or worse yet, tell us that if paper games and country dancing were good enough for them, they should be good enough for us."


"So what can we do? " asked Chris.


"We have to come up with a plan: work out our ideas, and come up with constructive changes, and reasons why we want them, and not just because everyone else is doing it.  And we need support, from the other sixths if possible, and maybe the fifths, too.  If we're all involved, it will be harder to ignore us."


The other prefects looked at her thoughtfully, the ideas turning over in their heads, and they settled down to plan.


********


Lisa, Cecilia, Bethany and Christine were sitting in the prefects common room, plotting their attack.
"But what can we possibly come up with for a reason to have social events with boys' schools. You know the school is absolute death on anything to do with sex or dating or even the bare idea that we might actually want boys for something other than a brother or cousin, and I can't see explaining to Ferry or Smitty that we think they're kind of cute," said Chris.


The others laughed, and Cecilia chimed in with "Practice."


"Practice? You can't be serious," said Lisa.


"Not that kind of practice, I mean practice dealing with boys as actual people. Most of us are going to go to university or training college, or get jobs, and we're going to meet boys there, and have to talk to them and socialise with them and date them.  Sitting up here on the Platz, we don't really do that, and it's easy to get overwhelmed when we suddenly have to learn at age eighteen or nineteen.  You can end up doing what my cousins did, and marry the first eligible man you meet after you leave school."


"Or doing what my sister did," said Lisa soberly.  "I certainly don't want a baby when I'm eighteen and I really don't want to have to quit university because of an accident. But Jean was swept off her feet by the first boy she ever really knew, and had no idea what she was getting into."

 

New Ideas by jennifer

 

Neither Josette nor Sybil's marriages had lasted past a few years. Josette discovered her husband cheating on her (Cecilia wasn't supposed to know about that part), had kicked him out and filed for divorce. At around the same time Sybil's marriage had trailed off in an increasingly distant relationship. She and her husband found they had little in common with each other, and had parted ways amiably but resolutely.  Sybil and Josette had banded together and, with the generous monetary settlement Josette's ex-husband had provided in exchange for a promise not to interfere with his planned political career, had settled in a nice home in the suburbs of Sydney.

The family fallout from this had been unpleasant and relations with the Russell home in England were only now becoming unstrained. Auntie Madge and Uncle Jem had been apoplectic at their daughters' casting off of their marriage vows and had refused to speak to either girl for more than a year.  After they had calmed down a bit and realised things weren't going to change, relations had gradually improved, to the point where Madge was hinting about having the girls move back to England to be close to their family.

Josette had gone back to her maiden name, completed a BA in economics, and was now working on an MBA, with the goal of going into business, providing economic consultation and investment advice for women. Sybil was working from home: her custom embroidery and needlework business was gaining an increasingly large network of customers, particularly in high end bridal wear, and she had recently hired an assistant. Sybil's twin sons, James and Eric, alternated time between their mother's house and their father's with cheerful good nature and adored Auntie Josette. The two women were still as pretty as ever, although Josette had gone for a more modern style, and Sybil was slowly learning to come to terms with her own beauty as something other than a shameful burdern.

Ailie, the featherhead of the Russell clan, had fared much better with her whirlwind romance. She had gotten engaged six months into her secretarial class and married by the end of the year to a handsome, wealthy MP, had three children in quick succession, daughter Mia and twins Ella and Erin. She was blissfully happy as a political wife and hostess and heavily involved in philanthropic works.  Her parents were pleased, if a bit bemused when they encountered Ailie and Geoffrey in their social circle.

David, the eldest of the Russell family, was a doctor in general practice in the south of England. He had married his receptionist, a pleasant, good natured woman several years older than himself, and they had three children, Davy, Anne and Kate, none of whom were twins. Kevin and Kester were in university, interested in athletics and their social life and little else.  They had declared in no uncertain terms that neither of them were interested in the military career their parents had hoped for them, but hadn't really expressed interest in any other options.

 *******

A conversation was taking place in the fifth form common room, headed by Vreneli. "I really wish they'd include current events in our history class," said Magda Petrovska of Upper Fifth."  There's a lot going on in the world, and it's hard to keep up.  We don't even have a school subscription to the major newspapers, and there isn't much time to listen to the radio, not that we pick up much in the mountains anyways."

"[I]I[/i]'d like more options for crafts and art," put in Lois Graves of Lower Fifth. "Right now, once we're past the raffia mats and picture book stage, it's all needlecrafts and sewing, unless you're the form tomboy and are allowed to use the treadle fretsaw.  And art is all painting and drawing."  The others laughed, having witnessed Lois's complete and utter lack of talent at any of the visual or fabric arts first hand.

Lisette Martineau broke in enthusiastically.  "I tried pottery at Tante Jeanne's over the holidays and it was great fun.  And my brother Jacques has a woodworking shop and makes amazing wooden toys."

"When our mums start up about the Dark Ages, they always talk about Guiding," said Marie Couvosier from her seat beside her classmate and best friend Lois.  "They got to go on weekend camping trips, and stayed in tents and made fires and, oh, loads of neat stuff.  I wonder why we don't do that anymore.  It sounds lots more fun than just going for endless walks."

"Yes," said Lois.  "My mum said that when they were in the Tyrol, the seniors could go into the village on the weekend to listen to the Gipsy bands or do some shopping without supervision.  We're not allowed off school grounds without a prefect until we're in Upper Sixth, and then only on an official school walk."

"There's not really much to do on the Platz, though," put in Phil Maynard of Inter V shyly, seconded by a vigorous nod from her best friend, Angela Embury. "The San isn't really somewhere you'd go for fun, St Mildred's isn't going to be thrilled to see us on a regular basis, and the rest is just housing for the San staff and a few shops."

There were nods of resigned agreement from the other full time Platz residents.

"I'd like to spruce up the common rooms," added Angela.  "Some more and newer books and magazines, better games, a record player and some records, some more comfy chairs and sofas. And I'd really like to be able to decorate my cubey the way I want; posters and such-like."

Daphne grinned. "[i]I'd[/i] like some new fiction books in the library; recent ones.  My sister Bride keeps giving me good suggestions of books to read, but I have to wait 'til the holidays, because we don't have much here written after the war. Except for Auntie Joey's books, of course."

 

The Staff by jennifer

The family wards had followed paths that were less controversial than the full clan members.  Ruey had taught PT for a few years in England before emigrating to New Zealand to help Roddy on his newly established sheep farm. She had married a New Zealander two years ago and they had settled into ranching, in partnership with her brother. Erica had trained as a kindergarten teacher, but had not wanted to return to the Chalet School. She was currently in a suburb of London, having decided to finally live in her nearly unknown home country. She still maintained her close connection with Claire, and the younger girl had made an extended visit to London the previous summer.

The boys were similarly dispersed around the world.  Roger, still single, was a civil engineer currently doing consulting work in Germany. Steve had also pursued engineering and was working on-site on a hydroelectric dam in Africa. He had married another engineer, a young Canadian woman, although they had no children yet and showed no particular desire to combine a family with their hectic work life. Charles was pursuing an academic career and was finishing a PhD in biology at Oxford, studying the conservation of endangered species. Mike was an Ensign in the Navy and was currently stationed in the Caribbean, while Felix was studying mathematics at Cambridge with the eventual goal of teaching.

Mike and Cecilia had always had a special bond as the misfits and singletons of the long Maynard clan.  Mike had had been sandwiched between Steve and Charles, three and four years older than him and inseperable, and Felix and Felicity, three years younger and twins. His active, energetic personality and native mischief, very different from his more sedate older brothers, had confounded his parents and had made quiet lessons at home from the mother's help a difficult chore. Unlike the similarly impulsive and active Margot he hadn't had triplets to keep him in line and cover for his misbehaviour.  Cecilia and Mike also shared the burden of having been angelically cute children whose appearances in no way matched their personalities.

Mike had escaped to the Navy as quickly as possible and loved the life. The consistent, predictable discipline of military school, combined with the physical rigour of the training and his love of the sea, had resulted in a transition to adulthood that was much calmer than his worried parents had expected.  He visited Freudesheim when he could, which wasn't often now that he was on active duty, but he and Cecilia corresponded regularly.

******

After the girls had left the mistresses perused the document.  It was surprisingly well written for a group of schoolgirls and outlined a number of suggestions in different areas.  There was a proposal for a revival of the Guiding movement, with a concentration on camping and outdoor activities.  There were suggestions for more access to materials pertaining to current events, including magazine and newspaper subscriptions and a discussion group.  Another section dealt with music, art and handicrafts, and called for a wider variety of topics, including woodwork and pottery.  There was a plea for broader access to modern and popular literature in addition to the classics and school stories provided in the school library, and a request for outings to more modern activities, including movies.  There was a suggestion to update the common rooms, with record players and records, student input on decorations, more modern magazines, and a more relaxed, social atmosphere.  There was also a section devoted to socialising with members of the opposite sex, with a blunt and pragmatic line of reasoning that produced raised eyebrows in several of the mistresses.

Most surprising was the section which summarised the views of the old girls who had been contacted by the prefects and other Sixths.  While most of them remembered their school days fondly, many of them had had difficulties transitioning into the adult world.

I arrived at uni to find the other students speaking another language.  I hadn't read the books they had read, or seen the movies, or listened the music, and the topics and interests they had were foreign to me. wrote one long time Chalet girl, now in her second year at Edinburgh University.

I had absolutely no idea how to talk to men or what to do when they talked to me. wrote another.

I was a leader at school. wrote a former headgirl. Everyone respected me and looked up to me and asked my opinion, and the mistresses spoke to me like an equal and it was wonderful. When I went to university no one cared about that.  My classmates thought I was bossy and much too nosy and prudish, and the professors thought I was domineering and impudent and much too forward, and no one wanted to follow where I led.

I though that if a man showed an interest in me, it meant that he wanted to marry me, and I couldn't understand why they kept leaving me. wrote one of the continental girls.

It was very lonely. wrote the daughter on an old girl, with strong family ties to the school. I didn't know anyone, and nobody knew who I was or who my family was.  There wasn't anyone to show me around and introduce me to people, and none of my professors knew my name. I cried myself to sleep for weeks.

I had no idea how to manage my time on my own. said another girl. Without someone telling me what to do and when to do it and getting me up in the morning and setting times for me to study I was overwhelmed, and my marks dropped.   

I was shocked by the other girls.  It took me a long time to realise that they weren't all wanton hussies with no proper morals or standard of behaviour.  Unfortunately, by then they had already labelled me a prig and were leaving me strictly alone with my standards.

Many of the stories sounded like the normal difficulties found when moving from a comfortable school environment into the more impersonal one of university or a job, but several themes persisted.  Girls were ill at ease and baffled by dating and friendship with the opposite sex, and tended to misread male/female interactions.  Many of them felt isolated from the popular culture of their respective homelands and had trouble following casual conversation.  Others had been so sheltered by their parents and school that they were totally thrown by what was, in a larger context, fairly normal behaviour by their peers. Some had been so steeped in the ethos of the Chalet School that they were unable to accept other ways of life as acceptable.  Others fared poorly outside of a regimented, controlled environment.  Most of the girls had either adapted eventually or gone back home, but some had suffered from more serious consequences.

At the end of the master copy of the report was a list of signatures of the girls who had contibuted ideas and support. A quick look showed that most of the two Sixths and at least two thirds of the three Fifths were represented.

*******

The the initial responses from the faculty were mixed.  Some of the younger mistresses looked intruigued and rather sympathetic, particularly the Financial Officer, Fraulein Harms, Fraulein Hurrell, and Miss Landon.  A few of the faculty looked affronted. Miss Ferrars eventually brought the group to order.

"This brings up some interesting issues," she started. "I was as surprised as you all were when Miss Annersley decided to retire last year, but she had been slowing down, and she felt that it was time to step down.  She and I spent a good deal of time in discussion with the board of directors over the summer, and she told us that she thought that the school needed new direction.  She felt that we had begun to stagnate, too focused on how things had always been done and our traditions, and not looking towards the future and how to best serve our girls in the modern world.  She also said that she herself was too caught up in the school history to be the one to lead the process."

"When I agreed to take on the headship I did so on the condition that the school hire a formal deputy head to share the administrative load, and that the hire be someone previously unrelated to the school, to provide a fresh perspective on the situation. Miss Smitts has a number of years experience as a mistress and department head in both boarding and day schools, including a two year teaching exchange at a boarding school in France, and has served on several educational committees."

Angela Smitts smiled at the others.  She was of average height, with features that were pleasantly comfortable rather than pretty.  Her keen blue eyes sparkled from behind thick glasses, and her cropped brown hair was starting to turn grey.  The position of deputy head was relatively new, although the school had followed the practice while in England, and many of the mistresses had been surprised when the position had been offered to a stranger to the school, particularly those who remembered the tenure of the infamous Miss Bubb.

Miss Ferrars continued.  "The board has received some concern from parents that the school is becoming too removed from general society. Many of our parents regard this as a advantage, however, as it keeps our girls well protected, but we have also had informal reports that a number of our graduates have had difficulty adapting to university and work life, particulary some of our long term students.  We have been asked to explore options for widening the school curriculum and reorganising some of our policies.  I was planning to take a term or two to settled in as head first, but it looks like this," as she gestured with her handful of petition, "may have accelerated things."

*******

Later that evening Nancy, Kathie and Vida Armitage sat in the Head's comfortable sitting room, enjoying tea and cakes.

"Well, I must say, better you than me, my dear." said Nancy, with a lazy grin. "Although it is time to make some changes.  When I read that startling missive from the prefects I realised that many of the proposed changes go back to the way things were done in the good old Tyrol days."

"In what way?" asked Vida, curiously.  She had joined the school in Switzerland, as had Miss Ferrars.

"Oh, letting the seniors go into town on their own, for example, or the Guide camps.  In the early Tyrol days students wandered into town with little supervision regularly.  They had to go in a group, and they had to get permission of course.  The school was a lot smaller then, and the mistresses knew all the girls personally. The girls really did have much more individual freedom in many ways.  A number of the girls lived in nearby villages, so there were visiting opportunities at friends' homes, while here most of the people with parents in the area have them undergoing treatment at the San.  We also only take day girls under exceptional circumstances now, while then it was more common."

"What do you think the reaction from the parents will be?" asked Vida.

"Mixed," replied Kathie.  "As I said in the meeting, some parents have expressed concern that our program is becoming dated.  The languages and academics are still first rate, but we haven't changed the extracurricular or social activities since moving to Switzerland.  On the other hand, a number of parents have selected the school specifically for its isolation and strictness."  She laughed.

"Actually, I was looking over the school intake records, particularly the notes about new students, and we seem to primarily attract three types of girls.  We have relatives and connections of old girls, many of whom are entered at the school at a fairly young age, and who spend their whole school career here.  We have San and Platz connections: girls whose parents are here for chronic diseases and recuperation, and the children of doctors, nurses and other San staff.  They join the school at all ages, and may only stay for a year or two, although some stay longer."  The San had moved away from TB with the advent of antibiotics, and was now served as a long term care facility for people with chronic diseases and as a convalescent home and therapy centre, as well as handling local medical emergencies.

"The third category is the problem girls.  We have a reputation for providing a stable, disciplined environment, which, combined with our isolation from disruptive influences, results in a number of girls who have had trouble adapting to schools elsewhere being sent to us to fix."

"Tell me about it," said Nancy, rolling her eyes.  "I've got two in Upper IV math this year; Luanne Jacobson, who seems determined not to do any work whatsoever, and Marya Jessek, whose main concern is coming up with as much mischief as possible."

"We do well with those girls, and have a good, well, reformation track record.  It helps that we have traditionally avoided taking girls whose problems are likely to be a bad influence on the other girls - we take the badly socialised girls, or the stubborn ones, or the misunderstood ones, or the high spirited ones, but avoid girls who have had problems with boys or drinking and drugs or the law.

"The concern is that the other girls are having difficulty adapting to the larger world.  They can handle the course work when they move on, but some of them are unable to cope with the freedom and temptations of university.  I think the problem is a lack of coping skills and knowledge in many cases.  We're sending our girls out academically well trained and physically healthy, with a good sense of conscience and morals, but dangerously naive and sheltered.  The world is very different from when we were in University."

"The real question," said Nancy, with a glint in her blue eyes, "is what Joey will think of the changes."

Kathie shivered slightly.  "I hate to think.  She still regards me as a new and inexperienced young thing who needs guidance in the proper Chalet school ethos, and I've been teaching here for fifteen years.  But ultimately, it doesn't matter what she thinks. Lady Russell has signed off on it, as a member of the board of directors, but Joey isn't on the board.  I suspect we'll hear about it soon enough."

 

Joey's Reaction by jennifer

 

"Ungrateful and impudent, that's what they are.  The Chalet School has been doing just fine for the past forty years and there is no need to overturn all our standards and morals for some sort of modern fad. It's ludicrous!  If Hilda and Jean and Bill and Matey were still here we wouldn't have to deal with sort of, of, absurdity!  It's less influence from modern society we need, not more!"

Cecilia shut the door of her room with a wince, blocking out most of the noise from her mother's phone tirade to Auntie Madge.  Her mother tended towards the dramatically flamboyant in her reactions at the best of times. This time it was underpined by a real sense of anger and betrayal.  The first official notice describing the board's decisions and asking for input from the parents had been sent shortly before the end of the term, and Joey hadn't been impressed, to say the least.

Daphne gave her a sympathetic grimace.  "Auntie Jo isn't happy, is she?"

"That's an understatement. You'd think that they'd proposed torturing babies or something, rather than the occasional dance and some new hobbies."

"Are you going to tell her about your part in it?"

"Not if I can help it. I'd like a relaxing Christmas, thank-you very much. At least, as relaxing as it can be with our mob."

*******

The Chalet School had been Joey's emotional home and pseudo-family from the age of twelve, and it did not seem to have occured to her that it must move with the times.  Joey's naturally conservative nature had always hated change, and she had been disturbed when several of the longest serving members of the school had left.  Matron Lloyd had taken a well deserved retirement three years ago and had moved to be closer to her sister's family in England. The next year the Dennys had retired to a home in the south of France: Miss Denny's rheumatism had been growing steadily worse, making her demanding teaching load impossible.

The following year had seen the retirement of Miss Lachenais after a badly broken leg in a climbing accident.  She had moved back to Paris to be near family while she recuperated, and had decided not to return to the school.  Frau Mieders had retired at the same time, moving to stay with her daughter and son in law. Bill had provided the biggest surprise of that year when she married a long time friend, an English professor who was retiring from teaching to write a book.  The two had retired to a villa in Italy. Finally, this past year Miss Annersley, who had been head of the school since the Tyrol days, had retired, passing the reins to Miss Ferrars. With Hilda's retirement the school had lost the last person who had personally taught Joey as a schoolgirl, and she felt it keenly.  While two of her old school friends remained at the school (Rosalie Dene as secretary, and Nancy Wilmot as the head of the maths department), the old girls who had been hired since were contemporaries of her children, rather than her.

Joey's books were still very popular among the younger girls, but Joey herself produced mixed reactions. In the close community of the Platz she had maintained the style and mannerisms of thirty years before, including her signature coiled plaits and fringe, and revelled in the opportunity to play Wife of the Sanatorium Director, First Pupil of the Chalet School and Lady Opener.  She had been feeling rather at loose ends this year, with her youngest two now in full time boarding school, and with Miss Ferrars and the younger staff less inclined to stop and chat during the school day than their predecessors had been.

 

Christmas by jennifer

"Darlings, it's lovely to see you all!" The tall, beautiful woman with her long blond hair in an elegantly loose style and her makeup immaculate, breezed into the room shedding winter clothing as she came.

"Flixy!  I thought you weren't going to get in until tomorrow!"  Con leapt up from her place by the fire to hug her younger sister, followed by Charles.

"The photo shoot ended a day early, so I hopped on the earlier train. I'm longing for some skiing and some of Anna's home cooking. Where is everyone else?"

Con smoothed her dark hair, styled in a sleek short cut.  "The UK contingent is all here.  Len's helping Anna with some baking in the kitchen.  Felix is off for a walk with Geoff, Rob and Ro, trying to wear off some of their excess energy before they explode.  Phil and Claire are over visiting Mary Rosonom with Erica in tow, and Roger's staying there, of course.  Cecilia's laying low and plotting insurrection against the government.  Steve and Jeanette are in Cairo, Mike's in the Caribbean, Ruey and Allan and Rod are in New Zealand at Allan's parent's place, Margot's still in Brazil, naturally, and I arrived two days ago.  Dad's at work, as usual, and Mother is off visiting Auntie Biddy for the afternoon."

"Plotting what?" 

"Treason, sedition, insurrection.  You know, all the usual activities of a brilliantly clever fifteen year old," Con laughed.  "It turns out the school is actually planning to update some of their policies and ideas, and has sent a questionaire to the parents for their input."

"It's about time," exclaimed Felicity.  "It certainly hasn't changed much since you and I were first students.  But what does Cece have to do with it?"

"From what I've pieced together from the various tirades and shouting episodes, the school board had decided that they needed to review and modernise some of their policies.  At the same time, a group of prefects and seniors, led by Cecilia of all people, decided to push for the same thing, and in Cece's usual bullheaded style did it thoroughly - canvassing the other seniors, getting supporting information from recently graduated old girls and presenting a formal proposal to the staff."

Charles broke in with a wry smile as he stroked his neat goatee. "It's quite a well written proposal, actually, if rather blunt at times.  I wish my undergraduates had as good a grasp on logical argument. Cecilia certainly can hone in on the heart of a problem and pull it out for everyone to see - she takes after you in that, sister dear."

Con's only response was to stick her tongue out at her brother.

"Sounds good so far," said Felicity.  "What's the problem?"

"The problem is that Mamma rather thought that we'd all be on her side: the Chalet School as a bastion against all that is evil and modern and all that.  Cece finally snapped after one too many complaints from mother and admitted her part in it. Mother didn't take it too well.

"Ah.  Well, it should be a nice change from a holiday full of hints about nice young doctors and how wouldn't it be nice to have some grandchildren running around at Christmas.  I was thinking of telling Mamma I'm going to be 'busy' soon - bet you ten pounds she's so happy she doesn't care about the lack of a husband."

"Flixy!"

Laughing, the two girls headed to the kitchen to see if Anna and Len needed help, while Charles gathered up the tea things.

*******

It had to be admitted that Joey was less than happy about the whole grandchild situation. Of her twelve adult children and wards only two were married and there was no immediate signs of grandchildren in either case.  By this point Madge and Jem had eight grandchildren and Dick and Mollie had eleven.  Even Daisy, still at the Platz with Laurie, had her five children, Tony, Peter and Mary followed by James and Eleanor, and Primula, settled with her husband in Devonshire, had three small children running about.

Joey's protests to her sister over the school situation had been in vain: Madge hadn't been particularly thrilled with the proposed changes on a personal level, but realised that they were necessary if the school were to maintain its stellar reputation.  More to the point, the Russells recieved a fair amount of income from the school, that income depended on continued enrollment, and the current fees were commensurate with a top notch school.  Madge had also spent the past twenty years in England, travelling much more widely than Joey had, and had a better grasp on the state of society than was possible in a small, isolated British enclave in the Swiss Alps.

The English branch was dealing with similar issues, although, being less isolated and with a student body mainly composed of English girls, the problems had not become as severe and were more easily addressed.  Over the past decade St Mildred's had become more detached from the main school, and had become an exclusive, expensive finishing school primarily serving the daughters of the wealthy elite with language and cultural training.  Few merely upper middle class families felt a need to send their daughters to a continental finishing school rather than (or in addition to) university.  Aside from attending the yearly pantomime, and occasional tennis matches, the finishing branch now had little contact with the main school.

Unlike Joey, Madge had learned something from her daughters' rebellions, even if it hadn't come easily.  She had eventually realised that one of the reasons her daughters' respective marriages had failed was because Sybil and Josette had been so desperate to get away from their parents' control that they were willing to marry the first man who came along, without paying much attention to either love or compatability.  Being forced to follow their mother to Australia, disrupting their own career plans and hopes, had engendered a deep and bitter resentment which had only now started to heal.

Joey hadn't caused that sort of rift with her children, and did genuinely want them to be happy in their lives.  The Maynard offspring, however, had realised that their mother was unable to understand how much the world had changed from her own girlhood, and many of the details of their personal lives and their decision making were shared with each other, rather than their parents.

*******

"So you've been plotting rebellion, then," said Felicity, looking at her younger sister with a sidelong glance as the older Maynard girls headed out for a walk in the sparkling winter air.

"Apparently," Cecilia sighed.  "I wish Mamma would calm down.  It's not really all that big a deal."

"Give her time," replied her sister.  "When I went to Milan you would have thought civilisation was about to collapse, but she's relaxed since.  Sort of."

"Or when Len broke off her engagement with Reg.  Or when Margot decided not to take orders. Or when I went on TV," added Con. "She's still making snide remarks about settling down and having babies, though, and did you see that twinset she gave you for Christmas. Lime green is definitely not your colour."

"She thinks she's losing us," said Len with a sigh.

"What do you mean?"

"We've all gone off into a world where she can't follow.  She doesn't understand, or can't accept that the world isn't the way it was when she left school and married.  When she was twenty, you went home after school for a few years, and then you married the first man who asked and settled down to keep house and have babies.  Maybe you went to university first and worked for a bit, if your family couldn't support you, but the husband and lots of babies were always the ultimate goal."

Con thought about this for a moment.  "She also doesn't believe you when you say you don't really want to settle down with a husband and babies.  After all, she was adamant about wanting to stay single right up until the ripe old age of, oh, twenty, and was married with three kids by about twenty-one.  So not wanting kids is something you're supposed to grow out of, and quickly."   Len laughed ruefully.  "If I had followed her plans for me, I'd be seven years married, settled on the Platz darning Reg's socks and probably have my eldest daughter starting at the Chalet school."

"Have you heard from him at all recently?"

"Not directly, but a friend heard that he's engaged to a young woman at his hospital.  She's about twenty-three and has been working as a nurse there."

"Likes them young, doesn't he?"

"Flixy!"

"Well, how about Ron then.  He's what, four years younger than you, isn't he, Con?"

"Oh, Ron's long gone.  Much to stuffy for my taste. There's this nice politial columnist, though, who's been hanging around a lot recently, Mark - handsome, polished, good tempered and a good sense of humour.  He's got potential."

"So did the last six boyfriends," responded Len dryly.

"Okay then, when are you and Leonard going to settle down?"

"When we're ready to.  We're happy where we are right now, and neither of us wants to rush things."

They walked in silence, enjoying the drifting snow and peaceful air for a while before the raucous sounds of the younger boys on their walk broke the quiet.

"I'm glad the weather is holding," said Len.  "Remember last year when we had the week long blizzard and were all stuck inside?  I thought I'd go stark raving mad!"

Con rolled her eyes.  "And Mamma wonders why we don't want to all have lots and lots of children.  I love you all dearly, but there are too many people in that house!"

Felicity grinned, "Let's get them.  They're making so much noise they won't hear us sneaking up."  The serious part of the conversation over, the girls concentrated on sneaking up on the boys, snowballs in hand, and the walk degenerated into a vigorous snow fight.

*******

"So how's school going otherwise?" asked Con a few days later, as the girls washed up after dinner.

Cecilia shrugged.  "Not too bad.  The work is no harder than last year, but they're finally leaving me alone to do my own stuff without fussing at me.  Being a prefect's better than I thought, even if it is getting me in trouble with Mamma."

"Carlotta's Head Girl this year, isn't she?"

"Right.  She's a bit prim and properish at times, but not too stuffy if there are others around to shake her up, and she never loses her temper.  Margie's Second Prefect, and she's a [i]lot[/i] more lively, even if she doesn't get into quite as much trouble these days. Lisa Morrison's Games Prefect.  She's not the life of the party, but she's got good sense."

"How's Jean doing, Flixy?"   Felicity sighed.  "Okay, but not great.  Jacob isn't sleeping well, and she's really tired all the time." Jean Morrison had gotten pregnant in her first term at university, and had returned to the Platz in disgrace to have her baby.  Jacob was a sweet little boy and Lisa and her friends doted on him, but Jean was finding the work of caring for a baby very stressful.

"I'll stop by for a visit later today," said Con.  "Goodness knows I've spent enough time looking after little ones to give her a hand."

Felicity changed the topic.  "How do you like Ferry as head? And what's the new one, Smitts, like?

"I like Ferry.  She's jolly, but she doesn't take any nonsense, and she's never nasty to you when you're called up on the carpet. She seems much younger than Auntie Hilda. It's strange not having Auntie Hilda there, though.  She's always been there, since Mamma was at school.  Smitty's a decent sort.  She's very comfortable and the little ones love her, but she's got a really sharp sense of humour. She's teaching my senior algebra class."

"Who else is new since I last visited the school?" asked Con. "Oh, let me help you with those," this directed to Phil, who had entered with a pile of linens.

"Let's see, Miss Walther joined two years ago as a junior mistress - I don't see her much, but Ro has her as form mistress this year. Miss Lambert joined at the same time - she's teaching English to the fourths and fifths - Daphne has her this year.  We got in a batch of new language people when Mlle Lachenais and old Sally-Go-Round-the-Moon left, too.  Adrienne's teaching junior French, of course, and Fraulein Zinkel and Mademoiselle Pierre-Bonet you know - they're teaching German and intermediate French.  Senorita Andreas is taking Italian and Spanish and Miss Anderson the Latin and Greek - you wouldn't know them.

"What other old girls are there on the staff now?" asked Len.  "I have trouble keeping track sometimes."

"There's Miss Everett - she's teaching history.  Miss Carter's from the English branch - she's the middle's geography mistress.  Fraulein Hurrell in the library and Fraulein Harms and Miss Kennedy in the office,"

"Miss Unwin's my form mistress," added Phil, as she folded napkins. "She's really nice.  And I have Fraulein Bertoni for science."

"Miss Landon and Miss Caird for PT of course," put in Cecilia."

"And Matron Henschell, Yollie, Willie, and Kathie Robertson from when we were there," finished up Con.

"It adds up when you think about it," said Len.  "It's over a third of the staff, all told.  No wonder the school has settled into a routine."

********

Cecilia poked her head around the corner into her sisters' room. "Con, do you have a moment to talk?"

"Sure, what is it?"

Cecilia came in and sat on the bed, accompanied by a dramatic sigh. "I need some help figuring out what to do about next year. I heard Mamma and Papa talking about it, and there's no way they're going to send me off on my own at sixteen.  Mamma was saying that she thought I could come home to help at home for a year or two before uni and I'll go mad if I have to do that.  I'd rather run off and mop floors for a living." The younger girl looked at her sister with an expression that was both defiant and forlorn.  "Can you imaging having to sit here, helping Anna out with the housework and babysitting for the neighbours, with a school full of girls my age across the fence, doing all sorts of interesting things?  Particularly when Mamma spends half her time hanging out with the prefects and mistresses, and has batches of girls over for all sorts of activities."

"Can't you stay for an extra year the way the three of us did?  They basically gave us individually designed study programs until we were old enough to send off to university."

"No.  The school decided not to keep girls once they had finished Upper Sixth, regardless of age.  They said it wasn't fair to the staff to have to come up with that sort of individual program in addition to the usual teaching, coaching and supervision load.  I think they only took you three for that extra year because of pressure from Mother."

"St Mildred's?"

"Come on, can you see me learning proper deportment and culture with that bunch of empty-headed socialites they have over there? Besides, we don't get free tuition for the finishing branch, and it's much too expensive for the family to afford."

"I'll think about it," said Con with a thoughful expression.  "Worst comes to worst, you could always stay in the spare room with me and find some sort of job."

"Thanks!" Cecelia leapt up and gave her sister a hug before running off in a slightly more cheerful frame of mind.

*******

"Papa, do you have a moment?"

Jack Maynard looked up at his two eldest children. "Certainly. Come in and find a seat."  Len and Con came in the study where he was reviewing the financial records of the Sanatorium, and cleared paperwork off a couple of chairs.  "What is it?"

"We want to talk to you about Cece," replied Len.  "She's really worried about what she's going to be doing next year, and she's getting herself all worked up over it."

Jack looked thoughtful and concerned. "I'm worried about that too.  We certainly can't send her off to University in England at barely sixteen, particularly when she's never been off the Platz for more than a brief vacation. Even if she could stay with one of you, she's still too young to be in that environment, with classes and residences full of eighteen and nineteen year olds.  She's a bright girl, and she's got common sense, but she's still only fifteen."

"Sitting at home with nothing to do would be worse," replied Con. "You know Cece - she's the brightest of all of us, and she's as stubborn as any.  She'll get bored and then she'll get rebellious, and do you really want all that intelligence and drive plotting escape? Remember the fuss when they tried to force her into Inter V for a year until she was old enough to be a senior?"

Jack suppressed a look of mild panic at the memory. "I was thinking that I could find her a job at the San - working in administration, or helping in the lab," he replied. "She'd have a job to occupy her time, and be making her own pocket money and clothing allowance."

"But she'd be living right next to the school, watching all her classmates and friends, not to mention Daphne, busy at school and sports and prefect duties and Christmas plays and all that," said Len. "And she wouldn't be allowed to take part.  They're not going to let her substitute teach the way Mamma did after leaving, either. Not to mention that hanging out here for a year or two isn't going to help prepare her for life at university."

"But we've got an idea," said Con.  "which will keep her occupied and interested, but still under some supervision, until she's old enough to be out on her own."

 

Winter Term by jennifer

"Daffy!  Where have you been hiding yourself?"

"I told you not to call me that!"  Daphne yelled back at her cousin across the grounds.  "I've been unpacking my bags in my cubey, of course."

The two girls greeted each other enthusiastically.  "So, how were your holidays?" Cecelia asked.

"Oh, pretty decent.  Maeve managed to get some time off at the holidays for once, and Bride and Simon and Rix and Polly were there with all their kids, but Maurice wasn't able to get the time off. Christmas and New Years are a busy time for the hotel he's at and he's still pretty junior. I got some good books from Bride and Simon, and a really nifty camera from Mum and Dad. You?"

"Mixed.  Come on and I'll tell you about it."  The girls found a corner to curl up in, away from the start of term chaos.

"So?"

"Well, it was great seeing everybody.  Flixy's gotten a lot more cheeky since she left home, and she kept baiting Mamma and Papa until the rest of us were practically in hysterics. She and Con ran a lot of interference for me when Mamma went off at me about our proposal for changes in the school, so that really helped until she started to calm down.  The younger ones were bouncing off the walls with excitement the whole time - Rob and Ro particularly, as last term was the longest they've ever been apart.  Oh, and Len and Con had a great idea for what I can do next year!"

"What? "

"Well, Mamma suggested I could just stay at home to help out and do some childcare for people on the Platz - you know how hard it is to get people here.  I was about ready to jump into the lake at the bare idea."

"It's the middle of winter.  You'd bounce."

"Daphne! You know what I mean!"

"Okay, Go on."

"Well, Con suggested that they parcel me out among the sibs and cousins for a year or two. Send me to Milan to stay with Flixy and study art and culture, to Con in England for a while with a study program at the museums and libraries - Charles could help there, maybe even dump me on Ruey and Rod at the ranch for a while."

"Neato!  Do you think Auntie Joey and Uncle Jack will go for it?"

"Papa seems okay with the basic idea, but Mamma will take some work before she's convinced that the big bad world won't leap out to corrupt me if she lets me out of her sight.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!"

"Good luck!"

******

The department heads had met again, this time to discuss the results of the survey.

"This is an interesting comment on our promotion policy," said Miss Wilmot, looking at the section on academic policies.  The school had always followed a fairly liberal guide when it came to promoting students to higher forms, or keeping them back in a lower one.  The line of reasoning had been that students should be allowed to work at the level most suited to them.

"They've got a point," said Miss Derwent. "We promote the best of our juniors and middles at the fastest pace possible, often putting them up a form mid year. Then we keep them in Inter V for a year, as they aren't mature enough yet to handle the responsibilities of full blown seniors."

"It's better than having 12 year olds in the Lower Fifth," countered Miss Schmidt. "Even if they are bright and fairly mature, they're still only twelve years old, and have to be watched over much more carefully than the fourteen and fifteen year olds.  Well, watched for different reasons, in any case. They're so emotionally volatile at that age, breaking and making friendships, feuds and jealousies. The fifteen years olds are less volatile, but their concerns are becoming more serious."

"Then," continued Miss Derwent, "we have girls who are held back two or three times, some because they have trouble with the languages, others because their basic academics aren't up to our standards, and others because they are discipline problems.  So we have girls who are sixteen or seventeen, and still only in Lower Fifth.  They are much more advanced than their classmates physically and socially, and really don't get much opportunity to spend time with girls their own age. I think some of them just get frustrated and give up."

"Twenty or thirty years ago that wasn't a problem," said Miss Ferrars. "The less academically inclined girls weren't thinking about university, and finishing school at Fifth Form without taking the official exams wasn't a big problem if they were going home for a few years to help out and then getting married. It's a lot harder to get a job without finishing school cert. now, and more girls have to work and fewer get married right out of school.  Add to that the fact that with our school fees and reputation, parents expect their children to come out with a reasonable school standing."

"Or look at young Cecilia," said Miss Andrews, head of the junior school.  "She'll graduate at not much past sixteen.  She's certainly university material if anyone is, but I don't see her being old enough for Oxford on her own, particularly as she's never lived anywhere but the Platz."

"I think it's clear that we have to work out a new way of handling the advanced students, and the ones who have have trouble keeping up," continued Miss Ferrars.

Miss Armitage looked up with an alarmed expression.  "Please, no more private coaching. I'm stretched far enough as it is, what with private tutorials in botany, physiology and chemistry, plus helping to coach the junior's netball."

"Don't worry about that," said Kathie with a laugh.  "Making sure that we don't increase the staff's workload is high on my list of priorities, believe me."

*******

It was half-term, and the prefects had been asked to assist the senior faculty in planning for the changes for the next year.  Cecilia had almost regretted starting the whole thing when she realised her half-term was to be spent in meetings with mistresses, rather than partaking of the games and activities which occupied the other girls at the school, or better yet, curling up with a good book.

The students had been asked to submit suggestions for hobbies and activities they would like to see at the school, and the prefects were currently busy sorting through the results.

"Here's another one for horseback riding," said Hilary.  "Don't these kids know we're living on a mountain?"

"Or how much it costs to keep a horse.  There's a bunch here for motor boating in the summer, too.  Can you picture Upper IV out on the lake in motor boats?"

"I'd really rather not."

Lisa continued, "Photography seems popular, and there's a reasonable number who'd like to try carpentry.  We could put a wood shop in the utility shed, and we could fit a darkroom into the science labs without too much effort. I'm not sure we could do judo.  It sounds like fun, but I don't think we have anyone who could teach it.  Some others want dancing in the hall - not country dancing or waltzes, but modern music."

Cecilia looked up from her pile of notes. "I've got the book suggestions here," she said, in her role as library prefect.  "And I asked my cousin Bride for a list of recommended contemporary books - stuff that's modern but will pass the mistresses.  She sent me a whole batch - historical fiction, mysteries, science fiction, novels, children's books, mythology, plus some suggestions of some good magazine subscriptions."

Leoline Marmont, the Art prefect, looked up from the table where she and Vreneli were sorting through another stack. "They're being creative, anyhow.  I've got requests here for pottery, weaving, carpentry, photography, origami, an electronics shop, quilting, raising tropical birds, guitar lessons, motor bikes, camping, canoeing and rock climbing."

"Tropical birds and motor bikes seem a bit much," said Denise Smith, the Bank and Mail prefect.  "I'd be keen on pottery or weaving though, and I can think of a half dozen of the middles and seniors who would be absolutely delighted to be allowed to fiddle with electronics in their spare time."

******

Those of the fifth forms who weren't visiting family at half term had been invited over to Freudesheim for the afternoon.  Cecilia had unilaterally refused to a help out with the festivities, invoking her duties as library prefect to back up her decision.

The girls, some forty of them, had started out with paper games and other similar activities, and were now enjoying cakes and tea in the sitting room and former playroom.  Joey had been a bit disappointed that none of the girls had requested that she sing, but had swallowed her resentment gracefully. In defiance of her normal habits, which were to reminisce about old school stories until it was time to go home, she was making an effort to listen to the excited babble of the girls as they chattered amongst themselves.

Joey was having trouble even following parts of the conversation.  The names of the latest rock groups and dances and movies stars were Greek to her. Actually, given her linguistic talents Greek would have been much more comprehensible. She had no experience with television programs at all, as Freudesheim still managed with a radio.  She listened as what she had formerly regarded as nice, modest girls from good families (many of them the daughters of old girls!) talked about boys back home, makeup, dresses, movies and dances.

The hot topic of conversation for the day was, of course, the proposed changes for the next school year.  Joey listened in bewilderment as a room full of Chalet girls, including several of her relatives, chattered enthusiastically about the proposed changes.  In amongst the arguments over which activities should be chosen there was a feeling of relief and excitement.  Finally, the Chalet school was going to update it's antiquated policies and move into the modern world!

 

A New Chalet School by jennifer

The views among the mistresses were more mixed that those among the girls, and ranged from delighted and relieved, to anxious and apprehensive, to adamantly scornful. Surprisingly, the division between the pleased and displeased cut across lines of both age, nationality and previous Chalet School history.

Miss Charlesworth, head of the history department, was frankly contemptuous of 'all this newfangled nonsense', as she bluntly put it. She felt no need for extra privileges, modern technologies and culture, or a wider social scene. What girls needed was 'good, solid discipline and hard work, none of this silliness'.  Misses Stone and Barton of the junior school shared her general opinions.  They preferred old-fashioned discipline and rules, with the students respectful and kept firmly in line, and had no desire to cope with some of the discipline problems that other schools faced.

Miss Desmoines, the senior French mistress, was equally, if less vocally, opposed to the social changes.  She felt that exposing the girls to wider temptations - rock music, movies, boys, risque books - was likely to lead them into serious trouble. The school's job was 'to protect our girls, keep them away from temptation and the sinfullness of the world, and lead them towards a properly pious life.'  Adrienne had seriously considered taking orders like her distant relative, Soeur Cecile, but had eventually decided to return to the Chalet school to teach, in part because of its religious focus and isolation from the confusion and secularity of the modern world. The prospective of modernisation frightened her.

Some of the old girls among the mistresses and parents were more nostalgic than anything else. They remembered their own school days as a safe, comfortable haven away from the world, where the mistresses and students lived in a secure bubble of their own society, largely unaffected by the world around them.  Modern society, with its multitude of choices, rapidly changing culture, and lack of a solid framework for behaviour and roles, seemed chaotic and stressful by comparison with their idyllically remember schooldays.

It must be admitted that even the most enthusiastic of the staff for somewhat taken aback at the amount of work that planning the new programmes involved. The mistresses involved in teaching extras were the most put apon, as hobbies and sports were a major part of the reorganisation. Miss Caird, for PT, Miss Lawrence for music and Miss Yolland for Art were looking particularly stressed out, if generally pleased with the results.

*******

 "What are you three going to choose?" Marie Courvosier asked her friends.  Several of the fifth form girls were sprawled about their form room, looking at the new options for clubs for the senior middles and seniors.

"Photography, I think," replied Daphne.  "We'll get to learn how to develop film and make prints, plus expeditions for nature photography and photographing historical sites."

"Creative writing and journalism for me!" said Phil, who had inherited her mother's literary talents.  "Imagine being officially encouraged to write stories, rather than being told that it's a waste of time and energy.

"I want the camping club," put in Lois Graves.  "Wood-craft, camp-craft and actual overnight camping trips in the summer. Divine! What about you?"

"Pottery for sure, but I can't decide between Irish Dancing and extra Games.  I've always wanted to learn the first, but the games would give a lot more variety."

The reorganisation of hobbies had been a big hit.  Girls were given three slots for extracurricular activities.  Private music, art or dance lessons could take up one slot, as could playing on a school team, although these had to be paid for by the parents in the first case, and the girls had to qualify for the team in the second. The other slots had a variety of options, including a mix of arts and crafts, choir, folk dance, photography, drama, creative writing, camping, and a general games option for those who just loved to play, regardless of skill.  One of the choices had to involve physical activity, to keep the more sedentary girls in shape.  The school would still maintain its regular PT classes, rambling, winter sports and swimming as part of the curriculum.

Under special circumstances a girl could be exempt from one of the slots. In particular, new girls who were struggling with learning the languages, and girls who had academic difficulties and needed tutoring, could, on consultation with the counsellors, drop a hobby in order to be able to devote more time to study.

So far the biggest problem among the students was deciding which of the options they wanted to try for the first year.  They could pick new hobbies from year to year, but had to stick with what they decided for a full year, barring a total disaster.

*******

 "This whole affair has certainly done Cecilia Maynard a world of good," said Miss Smitts, apropos of nothing, as a few of the senior staff relaxed over coffee and biscuits.

Miss Andrews looked up from her novel. "In what way?  I don't see much of her these days."

"It's like she's more, well, more there. She's spending less time locked off in her own world, and seems to be much more comfortable with the other prefects.  She's interacting more with the younger girls, too."

Miss Ferrars smiled in satisfaction.  "Good.  I hoped having her as a prefect would shake her up a bit.  She's a thoroughly nice girl, but she's never really fit in. I rather think she had gotten used to being on the outskirts of things, but someone with her brains and, ah, determination really does need to learn how to interact with people comfortably."

"I'm quite proud of the whole prefect body this year," continued Miss Smitts. "They've really taken the lead, and are initiating new ideas, in a very mature way."   Miss Wilmot laughed.  "I must say, it's a welcome change from the ususal fuss over choosing a creative theme for the sale.  Speaking of which, have they decided on one yet? Or are they going to go with Cecilia's original suggestion?" The staff chortled.  Cecilia had been overheard suggesting a "Great Rebellions through the Ages" sale, with a special section on the changes in the Chalet School.

*******

In the prefect's common room, the girls looked over the changes in social policy.  Chris bounced up and down in her seat in excitement. "Goody, goody, we get regular social events with St Andrew's school near Interlaken.  I'd even go to a debating society meeting if it meant there were boys there!"

"You'd go to a forced labour camp if you thought there'd be boys there," responded Cecilia dryly.

"Only if they were really cute!"

"They're still checking our reading material at the beginning of each term, though," said Bethany, with some disappointment.

"But they've expanded the allowed material a lot so it won't be as bad." countered Jeanne Allison.  "And we're going to have weekend expeditions to town for a movie and a chance to go shopping at least twice a term, and we're getting subscriptions to English, German and French newspapers for the senior common rooms."

Marjorie looked wistful.  "I wish I were going to be here another year.  It sounds like a lot of fun."

Cecilia grinned, "But at uni you'll be able to choose your own books and newspapers anyways.  I'm sorry to be missing the new hobbies, though."

The girls hadn't gotten everything they had asked for.  Books, music and magazines would still be vetted at the beginning of each term, and the requests for a free hand in decorating the common and dorm rooms had been scaled down considerably. However, the form rooms were each given a record player, a mix of albums and a design makeover, for a more modern, relaxed atmosphere.  The restrictions on cubicle adornments were also relaxed, and modern news magazines would be provided for the senior common rooms.

Regular activities were being scheduled with two nearby boys' schools, one Catholic and one Protestant.  In addition to purely social activites, the schools were to collaborate on special lectures and occasional field trips.  Suggestions that girls be allowed to date freely, however, were firmly squashed - interaction would be in groups, and girls would definitely not be allowed off school property in term time for one on one dates with individual boys.  The staff had unilaterally refused the added responsibility of monitoring individual girls' private lives to that extent, although they would permit written correspondance with parental consent.

*******

Several of the mistresses had decided to leave, unhappy with the changes and the direction in which the school was moving.  Miss Charlesworth was going as were Miss Barton, Miss Desmoines and Matron Duffin.  There were to be some new hires as well.  The board had decided to prohibit the promotion or holding back of a student more than one year out of their age group without extreme circumstances, and were hiring several mistresses to provide intensive remedial work for lagging students and those with problems with languages, as well as a new position to arrange for enrichment options for the young but advanced students. Parents would also be clearly informed that the school's language policies, while ultimately beneficial, could result in a temporary set back in progress in other subjects.

There were also plans to hire several full time trained counsellors, to keep an eye on student problems and to provide career and personal counselling as needed.  One of the younger mistresses was heard muttering, "What, you mean the Joey Maynard Method isn't good enough anymore?"  The addition of new staff would free up coaching and supervision time from the current mistresses, making the addition of the new hobbies and other activities possible.

In addition, the school was losing about five percent of its students, mainly those from the most protective and old fashioned of homes. They board predicted that enrollment would be back to its normal levels within a year or two, and that the temporary decrease in enrollment would only be a temporary setback.

Joey was still not happy about the changes but was gradually learning to live with them.  Her histronics had had no effect on either Madge, the board, or the staff.  Miss Ferrars, after one too many unannounced visits to the main office and staff room, had told Joey in no uncertain terms that the changes were going to go through, that the board had unanimously signed off on the recommendations, as had Madge, and that she was free to send her children to a different school if she found the new policies completely unpalatable.  She also formally requested that Joey not visit the school without a prior appointment.

It was highly unlikely that Joey would follow through on that suggestion, as she still had the benefit of free tuition for her daughters as one of the original founding family of the school.

 

Joey and Jack by jennifer

It was teatime at Freudesheim, and Joey and Jack were alone at the table for once.  Joey was waxing eloquent on the changes at the Chalet School, the perfection achieved in school policies and methods in her school days, and the dangers of modern innovations.

"Joey," interrupted Jack, with no discernable effect on the tirade, which was being deliverer with Joey's usual flair for the dramatic. "Joey!"  again, louder.

"What is it, Jack?"

"Did you ever stop to think that the school might be right?  That these changes are necessary in order to prepare the girls for life after the Chalet school?"

"But, but, the school has been doing just fine as it is!" Joey looked indignant at betrayal from an unexpected quarter.

"No, Joey, it hasn't.  I've heard our girls talking about life away from the Platz.  They don't talk to us about it, because they don't think we'd understand or approve, but they've all had a hard time learning to live in the modern world."

"But if they'd have just..."

"Just done what we planned for them?  Stayed on the Platz, or in the safety of a nunnery, where they could pretend they were in the world of fifty years ago?  Married young and started families?  Life is different now from when we were starting out.  Not as simple, better in some ways and worse in others. It's a wider world than it was then, and there are a lot more choices for them to deal with."

Jack sighed, and suddenly looked much older than usual. "Joey, I want my girls to tell us about their lives, honestly, without hiding it from us. I want them to be able to come to us when they have problems or worries.  They talk to each other, but they don't talk to us.  And I'm worried sick about Cece. She's graduating this year and she's no more equipped to head out in the world than to fly. She's bright and she's ambitious and she's stubborn and she's as naive as young Phil or Claire when it comes to life outside of a sheltered boarding school."

"I thought we'd agreed that she could help out at home for a year or two," countered Joey.

"No, you agreed that she would do that.  Quite frankly, we don't need the help. The children are all away at school, and Anna and Rosli manage the household affairs just fine on their own. Cece would be getting in their way, and she has no interest in babysitting the neighbourhood children.  I overheard her talking to Daphne, and she made it perfectly clear that she's had quite enough of minding children at home, thank you very much, and has no intention of being made responsible for other families' offspring. There isn't anything for her on the Platz, other than the school and the family. Without the school, there won't be enough to keep her occupied. "

"Joey, if we're not careful we'll lose her.  She'll run off as soon as she can and stay as far away as she can.  I don't want to face this with any of the younger girls either.  Please, think about that." Jack gave Joey a kiss on the cheek, and took his tea things into the kitchen, leaving his wife sitting there with a baffled expression on her face.

 

Reunion Time by jennifer

 It was the break between terms, and Joey was hosting another of her infamous mini Chalet School reunions. This time, the reunion consisted of as many of the former Maynard wards, adoptees, in loco parentis and honourary god-daughters and nieces as could be persuaded to come, spurred on by a rare visit to Europe by the McDonald girls.

The McDonalds had remained in Canada.  Shiena was firmly settled in Sherbrooke with her husband, a biology professor at Bishop's University.  Flora was living near Winnipeg managing a large farm with her husband, and Fiona was in PEI helping to run a family bed and breakfast with her husband. Shiena's two eldest were at university, but she had brought her younger daughter, Elspeth, who had her hands full helping with Fiona's three children and Flora's two, who ranged in age from thirteen to four.

Jo Martin (née Scott) had come from Jersey with her three children, although her husband hadn't been able to get away from the family business, a fruit and flower farm. Her mother had died a few years ago, of continued delicacy after her ordeal in Kenya, and her father now lived with her family. Juliet O'Hara had come alone. Donal had died unexpectedly two years ago, and she was planning on going back to teaching in the form of private coaching in mathematics. Her three children had all left home long ago, and she was the grandmother of four, with a son in law and a daughter in law as well.

 ********

Cecila hadn't been able to get out of helping with the festivities this time, and on a sunny spring day was conducting a tour of the new guest houses and coffee shops on the next shelf over, with Mary-Lou, Verity and Clem and their families.

Mary-Lou, now a junior faculty member at the University of London, had remained resoulutely single until a year ago, when she had shocked everyone by eloping with her graduate student, a brilliant, highly opinionated young man of twenty-five, and by subsequently keeping her maiden name (Keith, however, had switched his advisor to another member of the department). Verity and Alan were content in their home in a suburb of London, their eldest son Roland followed by daughters Anne-Louise and Doris. Clem had married a writer, and the couple travelled extensively in pursuit of their respective artist pursuits. Until now, their twin daughters had travelled with them, but they were to start at the Chalet school in the fall, now that they were eight.  The twins were particularly excited at the trip, as they were delighted to see their prospective school close up.  Tony hadn't been able to make it, as he and his fiance were visiting her parents in Wales on one of his rare breaks from the office.

*******

"So," said Clem conspiritorally, once the kids were out of earshot. "What's the gen on these new school developments?  I nearly fell over when I received the addendum to the school prospectus."

Cecilia groaned and pulled her sun-hat over her face.  "Please, don't remind me."

Verity looked at her curiously. "Aren't you pleased?  I can see that your mother is more than a bit dubious about it all, but the changes look very sensible and a lot of fun.  I know I for one had a terrible time talking to the male students when I went to the conservatory."

Mary-Lou looked over from where she and Keith had been wandering along, hand in hand, heatedly debating an editorial they had read in the morning paper. She laughed, and looked slightly self conscious. "I, on the other hand, had no problem talking to anyone. I just couldn't figure out why they weren't listening to me."  That prompted a general laugh from those who had known Mary-Lou as a school girl. Mary-Lou was still opinionated, strong willed and fond of being in charge, but over ten years away from the Platz and the varied experience of being a travelling archaeologist had broadened her view of the world, mellowing her slightly.

Verity, on the other hand, had blossomed in her adult life. She managed her house and children with a calm competency, and their cheerful home in a London suburb was a haven for her widely travelling family members. Verity projected an air of serene contentment with her world. Her eldest son, Roland, was a cheerful, steady boy, taking after his father, and her youngest, Doris, was (at the age of four), a retiring, rather shy girl. Seven year old Anne-Louise, on the other hand, had convulsed family and friends by taking very strongly, in spirit if not in looks, after her godmother, Auntie Mary-Lou.

Clem and her husband had established a cheerfully bohemian life, in many ways like the one she had grown up in, although both she and Richard were rather more organised and practical than the Barrass parents had ever been. They travelled widely, with a nanny for the twins up until now, settling in one location or another for six months or a year at a time. Clem painted and sketched, while Richard made notes and wrote, and they had a wide circle of artistic friends around the world.

 *******

Verity was still looking at Cecilia curiously, and the girl finally responded seriously. "Mother really isn't happy with the changes. Some of the other prefects and I helped start the whole thing out, with a petition to the staff, and so she isn't all that happy with me, either. It's like she thinks I'm letting down the school, or something like that. I'm not, though. I like the school, I just want it to be better."

"Oh, so that's what those letters at the beginning of year went for," said Mary-Lou with sudden understanding. She thought for a moment, as they stopped to appreciate the alpine view. "I can see it, though. Your mother hasn't spent much time away from the Platz, and I don't think she knows how different the world is now. Oxford came as a shock to me, and I'd only been in Switzerland for five years. I loved my time here, and most of what we learned was fantastic, but we were rather isolated, weren't we."

The others nodded in sympathy.  "And that was over a decade ago," said Clem. "If the school hasn't changed at all since then, then it's got to be much worse now." The conversation was broken then by the twins, who clamoured to go and hear the echoes, and the group moved onwards.

********

Mary-Lou, tidying herself in one of the many guestrooms at Freudesheim, looked over at her husband.  "So, what do you think of Switzerland, dear?"

"It's beautiful," he responded with a grin. "We should come back during the skiing season.  I do have trouble picturing you growing up here, though. It's so quiet and stodgy and away from everything."

"This says the man who spent six months in the Sahara!"

"That's work, though," he responded seriously. "And you know it's just for six months, so you can deal with it.  Some of the school and San staff have been here for decades."

"You mean like Aunt Joey and Uncle Jack?" 

"Yes, like them. Dr Maynard strikes me as your typical workaholic doctor. A nice man, loves his family, but rather quiet and shy and lives for his job. But Mrs Maynard..."

He paused for a moment to consider his words. The initial acquaintance between Keith and Mary-Lou had been stormy, to say the least. He was a brilliant, opinionated, perceptive young man, who, while he loved debate and wrangling over ideas, was always willing to listen and consider other points of view. His childhood and adolescence had been spent in all sorts of odd parts of the globe, as the son of a diplomatic attache, and so he had an extremely varied set of experiences to draw on. Mary-Lou had initially been very taken aback by this student who could argue with her on her own level, and wasn't at all intimidated by her self assurance and air of competence. Over time, she had learned to value his opinions, and his willingness to tell her what he thought, and why, even when he disagreed with her. Clem had laughingly told Mary-Lou that it was a good thing she had found a husband who could stand up to her, otherwise she'd be totally unstoppable.

"She's a nice woman, very friendly and kind and hospitable," he continued thoughtfully. "But she's a strange one, isn't she. It's as if the world for her consists only of the school and its connections, and everything else in the world is somehow not important in comparison."

Mary-Lou sat down on the bed. "I can see what you mean," she replied. "When I was a student, I thought she was everything that was wonderful. She was like a mother to me when my mother was too ill to do much, and when we moved to Switzerland and mother and Gran were back in England. And she is so ready to help everyone, and means well. But she doesn't think of the world outside of the school. She was one of the ones who encouraged me in thinking that I was better than everyone else."

"You mean you aren't?" said Keith, in mock surprise.

"You know what I mean," said Mary-Lou. "At school, I was the leader. Everyone gave way to me, everyone talked about how I could get away with things no-one else could, because I was Mary-Lou. The mistresses and Auntie Joey told me that I had special insight, and was the only one who could reform problem girls. They confided in me, and gave me special privileges. And then, at Oxford, I discovered no-one else knew I was special - they just thought I was this obnoxious, meddling, bumptious hick." Mary-Lou looked down at the floor. She could joke about it now, but her first few years at Oxford had been hard ones in many ways.

Keith sat down beside her and put his arm around her. "But you learned, and you adapted. Maybe Mrs Maynard can do the same."

********

Mary-Lou steeled herself for the task ahead. The lessons of responsibility and caring she had been taught at school had stuck, but of all the problem girls she had helped over the years, this one was the hardest. Fortunately, she had learned some subtlety and a bit of tact over the years.

"Hi Auntie Joey!"

"Oh, Mary-Lou. What have you been up to this afternoon?"

"I stopped by the school, and had tea with Miss Ferrars and Miss Wilmot," she replied. "We had a really lovely chat about the changes to the school, and what things will be like next year."  Ignoring the tensed jaw and inward drawn breath that was sure to herald one of Joey's now infamous tirades on the new situation, Mary-Lou breezily ignored her, and  continued before she could be interrupted. 

"I will say I was pretty shocked when I heard the news. The Chalet School has been the Chalet School for so long that it seems impossible that it could change now.  But now that I've had a chance to think about it, and talk to the people doing the planning I realize that a lot of what they are doing is just plain common sense.  They need to make these changes, and make them now."

Joey looked stunned. "You mean you approve!  After all the school has done for you?!?"

"Exactly," replied the younger woman calmly. "The school needs to change so that they can keep doing what they've always done best.  The Chalet School taught me to be responsible, and kind, and to think of others. They gave me a good, well rounded education, and looked out for my health and morals. The thing is, though, that the Platz is pretty isolated, and up here it's easy to forget how much England has changed since we moved here. The school has a responsibility to send the girls out into the world prepared to handle life, not to hide from it, or collapse from the stress."

There was a pause, and Mary-Lou continued more thoughtfully. "The one thing I think the school failed me on was learning flexibility. They taught us that there was one proper way to do things, from making our beds, to making choices about our life and relationships. The Chalet School way is a good one, but it's not for everyone. The hardest thing I had to learn when I left was that other people could have equally valid ways of living their lives, and that making different choices didn't make them bad people."

Mary-Lou looked at Joey. "Do you know the one thing I am ashamed of, from my school days?"

"Ashamed of?" she replied. "I can't think of anything you did that was quite that bad, however mischevious you were as a middle."

"It's how I treated Joan Baker," Mary-Lou went on doggedly. "I saw she wasn't fitting in, and I decided she needed help being a proper Chalet girl. I lied to her about why I invited her to visit. It wasn't because I liked her, or thought she was good at tennis, it's because I wanted to make her less of a disgrace to the school. She found out and ran away, and when she came back she had to apologize to me for being underhanded and eavesdropping.  I was so caught up in being the perfect Chalet girl who could help anyone, that I didn't even see her as a person, just a stereotype of the wrong sort of girl. I don't think she ever looked me in the eye again, and she was never really allowed to fit in after all, even when she changed her behaviour  and settled down."

The sound of the younger kids coming in from their walk disrupted the conversation, but Joey was left looking very thoughtful. 

 

This story archived at http://www.sallydennylibrary.co.uk/viewstory.php?sid=851