"Girls, do stand back! Let the passengers get off the train first, before you try to get on it!" Kathie Ferrars called out, in an attempt to restrain the group of schoolgirls which was, at every moment, threatening to become a surging horde. She and her friend and colleague Sharlie Andrews were supervising the group on their half-term trip to Neuchatel, and their eagerness to be on their way had been hindered somewhat by the fact that the train was a good three-quarters of an hour late.
The train came into the station and slid to a standstill and despite Kathie's warning one or two of the girls who were most keen to claim a windowseat leapt forward, and so doing, blocked the efforts of the passengers who were attempting to detrain.
"Girls!" Kathie called, starting to get cross now. It had been a fractious wait, and as she'd had the girls outside the station, marching them up and down to burn off some of their nervous energy, she'd felt her temper fraying ever so slightly. Grabbing the two recalcitrant schoolgirls and pulling them back, she quickly turned to the passenger whose disembarkation had been so rudely interrupted.
"I do apologise," Kathie hastened to say, and then stopped suddenly, as she caught a glimpse of the passenger's face. "Hello! What on earth are you doing here?"
As the taller woman, astonishingly dressed in trousers, waistcoat and tie, stood talking to pretty little Miss Ferrars, one girl amongst the group stood transfixed. Ted felt, oddly, like something that had been loose and homeless in her head had just slotted into place. Suddenly the world, or part of it at least, made sense.
"Ted? Ted, come on!"
A voice interrupted her thoughts, and Ted suddenly realized that she was alone on the platform, and the rest of her class were already on the train. Her great friend Con Maynard was loitering in the doorway, beckoning to her.
Ted picked up her case, and hurried over to her.
"Honestly Ted, when will you learn to stop being so moony?" Con said to her friend with a wicked grin, as she took her hand and pulled her up onto the train.
"Moony? Me moony? Constance Maynard, of all the cheek!"
And as Miss Andrews gave a quite impressive whistle, and signalled rather furiously to Miss Ferrars that she was about to miss the train, and as Ted settled into the affectionate pattern of teasing that had developed between herself and Con - a fairly recent development, but something that somehow both thrilled her and made her feel very much at home - she couldn't help casting one long glance at the strange woman on the platform.
She wasn't alone. She wasn't the only one.
"Who was that you were just talking to?" Sharlie Andrews asked her fellow mistress, as the two of them settled into an adjoining compartment. "An old friend of yours?"
Kathie shook her head, thoughtfully. "Not mine. Nancy's."
Sharlie raised her eyebrows questioningly. "Is that so?" she grinned.
Kathie waved a hand. "And not that kind of friend!" she chuckled. "I mean, she is, but they never....At least, I don't think so..."
"Well, that's nice for Nancy to have some company while you're away," Sharlie said, smirking a little.
Ignoring Sharlie's attempts to provoke her, Kathie shook her head. "Nancy's got plenty of company at the moment - she's hiking round Valais with the fourth form and Peggy, remember?"
"Oh, what a shame - for Nancy's friend to have come all this way not to find her."
"Ye-es." But as Kathie settled into her seat, and thought about this for a while, she broke into a laugh, for she'd suddenly made sense of why Caroline had not been at all surprised to be informed that Nancy had gone camping for the week. She'd just remembered seeing, as she'd been supervising the girls outside the station, a familiar shock of white hair disappearing into the café across the road.
"What?" Sharlie asked, intrigued by the look on Kathie's face.
"Okay, if I tell you this, it absolutely has to go no further..." Kathie said, and then catching sight of the open compartment door, slid it closed with her foot.
And Ted, who'd stepped out into the corridor for a moment to stretch her legs, heard no more on that particular subject. Well, not for a few years, at least.